A lot of players give credit to their coaches for teaching them on-ice skills and off-ice lessons. Jean Dupuy can thank Sheldon Keefe for giving him a professional career.
Dupuy was a nondescript, undrafted forward who had little chance of advancing past junior hockey until a trade to Keefe’s team. Now the 20-year-old is in Buffalo for development camp and eager to begin a three-year contract with the Sabres in the fall.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my coach in Sault Ste. Marie, Sheldon Keefe,” Dupuy said Tuesday. “He taught me about every facet of the game, changed the way I was playing, the way I saw the game, thought the game. I give a lot to him and the teammates I was with the last two years. It was a good group of guys, a winning team and that really helped in my development.”
Dupuy was a one-dimensional player before meeting Keefe. He had just seven goals and 15 points in 92 games with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, totals that were expected after he failed to fill the score sheets in bantams and midgets. He could defend and hit, but it takes more to catch the eyes of an NHL team.
After an early season trade to Sault Ste. Marie in 2013-14, Dupuy’s all-around game began to develop. He topped the totals of his first two seasons in just 45 games, putting up nine goals and 17 points. That was enough to get him an invite to training camp with Winnipeg’s minor-league team last fall.
“Going to St. John’s was a real eye-opener and helped me to have a good edge at the start of the season,” Dupuy said in First Niagara Center. “I trained really hard that summer to make it happen. It carried into the season, and I was very fortunate that Buffalo came knocking.”
Dupuy piqued the Sabres’ interest by recording 19 points in the opening 19 games last season. They quickly signed the 6-foot-3, 201-pounder in November, which allowed him to play out his final junior year knowing that a pro career awaited.
“In November it was probably the happiest day of my life,” Dupuy said. “It’s a rising organization. The fans are very passionate about their hockey here, so it’s exciting.”
He finished the 2014-15 season with 18 goals and 46 points in 54 games, then added four goals and six points in 10 playoff appearances. His original skills remained as the coaches in the OHL’s Western Conference voted him best penalty killer and second-best defensive forward.
He’ll head to Rochester in the fall, with the Sabres hoping that Dupuy’s next coach can have just as much of an impact as the last one.
“I’m humbled and excited to be part of the organization,” Dupuy said. “I’m looking forward to moving on with the rest of the week.”