After leading the Pacific Division for much of the early going, the Tucson Roadrunners have found their way back to the top after picking up four more points on a two-game post-Christmas road trip.
The offense is continuing to click on all cylinders, scoring 4+ goals in six of the team’s last seven games, and a large part of that has been the presence of Laurent Dauphin.
Dauphin, a 21-year-old from Quebec, tallied two goals and an assist in 20 games with the Arizona Coyotes this year before being sent down to Tucson for the past seven games.
Now he has ten points (5G, 5A) in those seven games. For comparison’s sake, Dauphin had 24 points in 66 games at the AHL level last year.
“I’m more comfortable and more patient with the puck,” Dauphin explained of his success. “I feel pretty good. It’s a great group of guys, and it’s fun to win some games.”
“I’m doing more offense than I do up there,” Dauphin added about his different role with the Roadrunners as compared to when he’s with the Coyotes. “I just play my game here and try to help us get a win.”
Tucson is 6-1-0 in its last seven games.
Though he was kind of the new guy on the block, it didn’t take much for Dauphin to get acclimated with his linemates and begin to thrive at the AHL level.
“We spend maybe a week or two (getting the flow), and that’s really all it takes,” Christian Fischer said about trying to incorporate guys that come down from the NHL level. “I think it comes down to if you can play the game, it doesn’t take much more than that, as long as everyone’s thinking the right way.”
“It’s just finding guys on the ice and knowing where he’s at,” Dauphin said of what he had to learn with Fischer. “It’s been pretty good so far.”
The reality is that Dauphin is obviously down in Tucson to work on some things, and some of his production is dependent on his teammates being able to help ease his transition into the lineup.
“When he comes down here, he knows how to play,” said Fischer. “He knows how to compete, so it’s really easy playing with him. He knows everything to know.”
“You just want him to keep pushing and keep playing good hockey so he can get back up there,” Roadrunner head coach Mark Lamb added. “He’s created a lot of offense since he’s been down here, and it was something that we were missing.”
“He’s probably disappointed to be down,” Chris Mueller said about his new teammate. “He’s trying to work his way back up there just like (Tyler Gaudet) is now, so you just stay positive with them and working hard, and they’re going to get their chance again. You gotta play well down here to get back up, and those guys know that, and they come with the right attitude and in due time they’ll be back up there in a hurry.”
There was one goal in particular that showed the instant chemistry Dauphin is having with his teammates. On December 21st, there was this play where Mueller spins around and gets the puck across to the other corner, finding Dauphin for the easy goal.
OMG. pic.twitter.com/GDZY55k5R1— Tucson Roadrunners (@RoadrunnersAHL) December 22, 2016
“I was pretty happy to see that puck coming to me,” Dauphin joked. “It was a pretty good pass, yep.”
“Our line’s starting to get a little bit of chemistry,” added Mueller. “There’s a reason he made the team out of camp; he’s a smart player, good on draws, and good penalty killer, and his offense is coming around too, which is just another positive under his belt.”
“If he can continue that I’m sure he’ll be up in no time.”
The thing that really stands out when watching Dauphin on the ice is how much faster he is than most other players in the AHL, which also caught the eye of Coach Lamb.
“His speed,” Lamb responded when asked about Dauphin’s biggest strength. “I’m just getting to know him too, but he’s a smart hockey player, and he could be a 200-foot hockey player. That’s how he’s going to have to play to get back to the NHL.”
The Coyotes sent Dauphin to work on one thing in particular, and that was to be more patient with the puck.
“Just trying to make plays instead of chipping it in every time,” he explained. “If I go back up there, I need to bring that back.”
- There are several extended point streaks going on with this team right now. Fischer and Kyle Wood have recorded points in seven-straight games, and Mueller is at four-straight. Only four players have had point streaks longer than seven games this year, and only one of those streaks is active
- Wood’s 28 points have him tied for second among all AHL rookies. Jake Guentzel has 32. Wood’s 21 assists are tied for fourth-most in the league by any player, and lead all defensemen
- Even with some struggles, the Roadrunners are still second in the league in power play percentage, converting on 31 of their 115 man-advantage opportunities (27.0%). Only the Grand Rapids Griffins at 27.9% are better
- The team returns to Tucson for two games this weekend. Friday’s game is Star Wars Night, and Saturday’s is a dollar dog New Year’s Eve special. Friday starts at 7:05 PM MT, and Saturday commences at 6:05 PM MT.