Saturday, July 8, 2017

Laurent Dauphin: Two Autographed Cards

Needless to say, the Chicago Blackhawks have become masters at dealing with the salary cap after championship runs, but that fact also means losing players fans had been attached to. Many times, those players have come back years later, either to finish their careers with the team on low-paying salaries (Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, Patrick Sharp) or in trades that raise more questions than they answer.

One trade that may eventually make sense from a hockey standpoint was the one that sent Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. As it stands, casual hockey fans see this as a salary dump mixed with a D-for-D trade, noting that Murphy had become a staple of the Coyotes' blue line last year, posting career-highs in assists and points at the age of 24.

However, the hidden chip in that trade - and the reason why I would have also done it in GM Stan Bowman's shoes - is the 22-year-old Dauphin.

You see, a couple of years ago, when the Hawks were winning championships every other season, their depth was as much of a reason they won as their offensive star power (Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane), stellar goaltending, except when facing the Nashville Predators (Corey Crawford) and, of course, elite play by defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Hjalmarsson.

But the third-line center spot was held down in recent years by the dependable Marcus Kruger, who had a heir apparent in Phillip Danault. The problem with Kruger was that he came with a $3M cap hit; the problem with Danault, whom the Hawks rightfully knew was going to come into his own and be able to produce at the NHL level, was Kruger was ahead of him, so he was traded to the Montréal Canadiens at the 2015-16 trade deadline. Danault posted 40 points with the Habs in 2016-17, playing in a first-line role he isn't suited for; Kruger was traded twice this summer.

Which leaves an open spot at the 3C position, one that was destined for Danault for years. Dauphin's statistics with the LHJMQ's Chicoutimi Saguenéens (186 points in 170 games) mirror those of Danault with the Victoriaville Tigres (251 points in 243 games), and his progression in the AHL (going from 0.25 points per game to 0.36 to 0.74) is even sharper than Danault's (from 0.36 to 0.54 to 0.33).

At 6'2" and 185 pounds, he just needs to add some 10 pounds of muscle to his frame to be a dominant third-liner like Jordan Staal and Nick Bonino have been in recent years. He isn't lights-out in any skill set, but he has no weaknesses either. He's a workhorse with good speed, good hands, terrific hockey IQ, good vision, and is already an above-average setup man. And he's sound defensively.

Here he is wearing one of the prettiest hockey uniforms of all time, the Sags' white (home) garbs, first with card #38 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and CHL Rookie sub-set:
And here's an even better view of it, on the all-foil variant of card #58 from ITG's 2012-13 Draft Prospect set:
He signed both cards for me in blue sharpie in early May when he was in Montréal, tagging his jersey number (27) at the end.

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