Before William Dufour put up record-breaking numbers for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, he was a mostly unknown fifth-round pick of the New York Islanders at the 2020 NHL Draft.
It's hard to consider him an underdog story after being named the 2022 QMJHL MVP, but nevertheless, his path has been different than the list of first-round talents and future stars he skated alongside at the NHLPA Upper Deck Rookie Showcase in Arlington, Virginia.
"I'm probably the only fifth-round pick here," Dufour told Sammi Silber of The Hockey News on Tuesday. "When I was drafted, my agent, the first thing he told me was, 'It's just a pick. It's just a round. Just head to training camp. You do your stuff. You do your personal thing. Keep working. Never give up,' and now I'm here with all the first-rounders, so I'm pretty happy to be here."
There were 35 rookies invited to the 13th annual gathering, which serves as an early opportunity for the game's top prospects to become acquainted with each other and for Upper Deck to get pictures of players - such as No. 1 overall pick Connor Bedard - in their team sweaters for marketing and promotional purposes on new cards. Dufour, who wore No. 14 in his lone NHL regular season game last season, donned No. 56 at the event.
Dufour had a solid first professional season in the AHL in Bridgeport, scoring 21 goals in 67 games. His size and shot separate him from other Islanders prospects, but his skating ability needs to improve for him to stick in the NHL as a top-six player. Dufour has been working on his explosion during the off-season, aiming to have quicker first strides.
"They have high confidence in me., Dufour said about the Islanders organization. "They want me to be an NHLer in a couple of years for sure. They have high expectations for me, and they just want the best from me."
While injuries could lead to an opportunity in the NHL this season, Dufour is probably another successful full season away from having a legitimate shot to make the team out of training camp.