In the fifth round of the 2020 draft, the Islanders selected William Dufour, a right winger from the QMJHL. Typically speaking, there aren’t a high percentage of fifth round draft picks that develop into game changing NHL talents. However, the Islanders may have found themselves one of the diamonds in the rough with Dufour. He’s in the middle of a 2021-22 season that’s turning a lot of heads and generating a lot of excitement in the Islanders community.
A Record Breaking Season… with more to come
Through 53 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs, Dufour has amassed a whopping 48 goals and 48 assists. In his most recent performance against the Cape Breton Eagles, Dufour scored two goals in a 5-1 victory. The notable part about these two goals is that they gave him the franchise record for most single season goals in Sea Dogs history. Some of the notable NHL players he leapfrogged en route to this record includes Mathieu Joseph, Mike Hoffan and Jonathan Huberdeau. And with 12 games still remaining on the schedule, it’s highly likely that Dufour will finish the season with over 50 goals. He also may find himself breaking another Sea Dogs record by the season’s end.
His 96 total points this season is the second highest single season point total in Sea Dogs franchise history. Sitting in first place is the aforementioned Jonathan Huberdeau’s 105 points from the 2010-11 season. With the point pace Dufour is at, he should easily accumulate the 10 points necessary to break the record. This is without even mentioning that his 96 points also keeps him just one point out as the league leader in points. It’s been an overall fantastic season for the 20 year old winger. Being in the same conversation as a player like Huberdeau who’s one of the highest scorers in the NHL is a great development. His breakout season now leaves many with the question of when can we expect the winger to transition to the pros?
What’s Next For Dufour?
Dufour remains unsigned, but his ELC from the Islanders will likely be a formality this coming summer. With that, there’s a strong possibility that Dufour will play for the Bridgeport Islanders in 2022-23. His pathway to the NHL is really dependent on how he performs there. As we saw with 2014 first round pick Michael Dal Colle, massive success in the CHL does not promise NHL success.
Dal Colle was a very slow developer and his offensive game never fully translated to the NHL. Six years after his draft year and Dal Colle still finds himself as an AHL regular with no established NHL role. Of course, there also is the chance Dufour follows the Oliver Wahlstrom path of development. Wahlstrom only needed 50 games with Bridgeport to develop before getting his NHL callup and cementing his role as a regular starter. So that begs the question, which one of these paths is Dufour more likely to follow?
What’s encouraging about Dufour’s potential is that he’s been gradually improving his offensive game. He’s bounced around four different QMJHL teams since being drafted 6th overall in the 2018 QMJHL draft (also speaking to the talent being observed by professionals). With each new team, you can see an uptick in his production nearly every time. What it shows is that when he’s been given an expanded role, he’s answered the challenge every time. This constant drive to improve will bode him well when transitioning to Bridgeport.
What also will serve him well is his size and defensive game, which will certainly be valued by Barry Trotz and the Islanders. He plays the kind of hard working physical game that could make him a great power forward for the team. Further helping him along is the potential for him to be centered by 2021 second round pick Aatu Raty in Bridgeport. While this is far from a certainty, working with a talented offensive center like Raty will certainly help to keep Defour producing in Bridgeport if this pairing does occur.
All in all, Dufour seems like he has the potential to follow a path similar to Wahlstrom’s. With enough production in Bridgeport, he may get a small NHL sample next season and a chance to compete for a starting role in the top 6 in 2023-24. Only time will tell how well Dufour’s game will translate to the NHL, but this breakout season is a good early sign from the fifth rounder.
Featured image courtesy of Ghyslain Bergeron/LHJMQ
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