The New York Islanders needed offense and brought up 20-year-old William Dufour to provide a spark against the beasts of the East in the Boston Bruins.
But like beasts do, they feasted on Dufour and the rest of the Islanders in a 4-1 loss.
William Dufour played just 6:48 minutes, as he was on the ice for the first two goals against–with a few mistakes–and then sat and watched the final 29 minutes of the game.
He is no longer listed on the New York Islanders media site as of Thursday morning, but no official announcement has come from the team yet. There’s a chance…a chance…that he was sent down to open up a roster spot for forward Kyle Palmieri (IR).
Let’s assume Dufour was sent down because he struggled, which is the likely reason, and go through what went wrong in his debut.
On his first shift, Dufour fed linemate Mathew Barzal coming out of their zone. The pass was behind Barzal, who made a strong move to quickly toe-drag the puck through his legs, which allowed him to continue moving forward with pace, which led to a quality chance for Josh Bailey off the rush.
He had his first career hit on Boston defender Derek Forbort, as he was doing the little things you wanted to see.
But then his debut went south and fast.
On the Bruins first goal, courtesy of Charlie McAvoy, Dufour tried to clear the puck out of the defensive zone but failed to, leading to extended zone time for Boston. The puck made its way back to McAvoy, Dufour’s man, but the youngster could not get his body or stick on the shot, and netminder Semyon Varlamov failed to come up with the save.
All the way from Long Beach 🚀 pic.twitter.com/4vRA0DJTll
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 19, 2023
On the Bruins second goal, via a Forbort tap-in, Dufour was double-teamed along the boards, ultimately losing the puck battle. He needed more support from his linemates, didn’t get it, and that was that.
Scorebort from the doorstep. pic.twitter.com/ye3t9iRDhu
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 19, 2023
After the game, William Dufour did not speak, but Islanders head coach Lane Lambert shared his thoughts on the prospect’s performance.
“I liked his first period. I like some of the things he did. He’s a big body. He went to the net hard, and he’ll continue to learn and grow from that,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “And that’s what that’s about from that standpoint.”
“He’ll be fine.”
There’s two ways to look at how Dufour was handled Wednesday night. Should he have been benched in a game where the Islanders needed offense, and his call-up was solely for that reason? Or did Lambert do the right thing by sitting him, as he didn’t look ready early on?
Whichever way your mind goes, the blame might have to go on general manager Lou Lamoriello.
This summer, we spoke with Lamoriello, who shared that he would rather call up prospects too late.
This might have been an example of calling a player up too early, and it backfired.
Despite a solid start to his AHL career, with 13 goals and 12 assists in 37 games, this was the first season of his professional career. Yes, he dominated in juniors, but that doesn’t compare as Dufour said it best when NYI Hockey Now caught up to him after Wednesday’s morning skate.
“Junior, sometimes, if I was playing a bad game, I could finish with like two goals. It’s not the same type of thing here,” Dufour said. “I mean, if I don’t move my feet, if I don’t play physical, like, I won’t have any chances offensively,” Dufour said.
It’s the same at the NHL level, which he learned quickly in his NHL debut.
Now for Lambert, he had the chance to see Dufour skate during the optional ice time and had to make a decision based on that. Yes, 21-year-old Simon Holmstrom had struggled since returning from an eight-game absence due to a lower-body injury. And yes, against the Bruins, offense is needed, which he was not providing.
But defense is also needed, and Holmstrom does play strong on the defensive side of the puck.
It would have made more sense for Dufour to play against the Buffalo Sabres, who the Islanders face Thursday night. Yes, the Sabres have been solid this season, but no one in the NHL compares to Boston.
Also, Lambert played Dufour on a line with a struggling Barzal and Bailey, who provided him with little support throughout the night, particularly in the defensive zone.
We see call-ups come up and play either on the third line, alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau or on the fourth line.
The reason Dufour likely did not play a bottom-six role Wednesday night is because they went up against Boston’s big guns.
Dufour would not have been ready for that responsibility.
It was a tough matchup for any young player, especially one making his NHL debut.
Now he goes back to Bridgeport (allegedly) as he will learn from his debut and move forward with his development. He has a lot of upside, especially with that shot of his, but he needs to work on his skating if he’s going to be able to stick in the NHL.
At 20 years old and in his first AHL and professional season, William Dufour still has a lot to learn–which should not be considered a problem by any means. His failures were not all on him, as management did not help the cause.