EAST MEADOW — William Dufour’s NHL experience last season lasted just 6:48 on Jan. 18 against the Boston Bruins. The highly-touted New York Islanders winger committed two costly turnovers against the eventual President’s Trophy winners, was benched for the rest of the game, and sent down to the minors a day later.
That would create a sizeable chip on anyone’s shoulder to finally realize a lifelong dream only to have it taken away within moments. But the 21-year-old Quebec native has opted to take a different route, one that is fueling him through Islanders rookie developmental camp, which began on Thursday.
“It was a dream that came true,” he told amNewYork. “Since I was two years old I was dreaming of playing in the NHL and I tasted it for a couple of minutes. When you taste it, you want to go back. It’s way different than the AHL. Everything is better.”
Dufour is one of the Islanders’ top-rated young forwards in their farm system. A fifth-round pick in 2020, he shot up prospect charts across the league when he broke out for a monster season with Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scoring 56 goals with 60 assists in just 66 games. It won him QMJHL MVP honors while leading his side to a Memorial Cup, where he won the championship round’s most valuable player award, as well.
Making the jump to the Islanders’ minor-league affiliate in the AHL, Dufour posted 21 goals with 27 assists — a strong showing in his first professional season — which was put on hold for that all-too-brief NHL stint.
But with a long-awaited opportunity to finally reset — Dufour finally made it home for an extended stretch in Quebec to train for the first time in nearly two years (“It was busy as hell,” he said) — he went to work to address his skating, which was deemed one of the weaker areas of his game.
“My skating and my cardio [have improved],” Dufour said. “I’m just in better shape in general. I did better in the testing in the gym this year, so I’m really happy with that.”
While the Islanders are a veteran-laden team, there seems to be a path open for Dufour to make a return to the NHL. Team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello mentioned him specifically as a younger player who was “close” to making a legitimate push for time on the big club.
“That’s going to be up to him,” Rick Kowalsky, the head coach of the Islanders’ AHL affiliate overseeing development camp, said. “Step 1 is for him to go through these next four, five days like he’s taken a step. Step 2 is integrating with the NHL players [at next week’s training camp] and carrying that in.”
While Day 1 of a developmental camp doesn’t provide much insight into the player’s tangible skill set, there is certainly no shortage of a driven mindset from the young winger.
“I want to get back again this year and I’ll do whatever it takes to do it,” he said. “I made a couple of mistakes in the NHL and when you’re young, you’re going to learn from that. That’s what they told me when they sent me down and that I’ll be better next time. It was a great learning process and now, I think I’m ready.”
For more on William Dufour and the Islanders, visit AMNY.com