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‘He can do everything’: Dupont granted exceptional status to play in WHL

Second in WHL history
CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5, 2024: Landon DuPont (Photo by Jenn Pierce/WHL)

This week 14-year-old Calgarian Landon Dupont became the second player in Western Hockey League history to be granted exceptional player status.

This means starting in the 2024-25 season he’ll suit up as a 15-year-old defenceman in the WHL, an honour that’s been given to only eight other players in Canadian Hockey League history by Hockey Canada.

Former Regina Pats forward and Current Chicago Blackhawk Connor Bedard was the most recent player to be given exceptional status to play in the WHL. However, there are seven others including the likes of Connor McDavid and John Tavares.

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Luke Vlooswyk, who suited up with Dupont on Edge School’s U18 Prep team in Calgary this season, said he’s not surprised by the announcement.

“He had such a great year so it’s something we all expected but to see it actually come through was just so cool to see not only a teammate but a really good friend of mine go through such a cool experience,” he said.

Dupont had a tremendous season at Edge School notching 19 goals and 43 assists for 62 points in 30 games in his first season at the U18 level. Competing against players much older than him he finished third in scoring in the Canadian Sport School League (CSSHL).

He also added 16 points in five playoff games which led to a league championship title. Vlooswyk scored the game-winning goal in the championship game.

“As a player, he can do everything,” Vlooswyk added. “He has the size, skating, puck skills, and he can score.

“I think the biggest thing is off the ice just how he handles himself. All the media attention he had surrounding him this year for a 14-year-old to be able to deal with that how he did and be as humble as he was makes him exceptional in a lot of ways.”

Vlooswyk never got the chance to be linemates except for a bit of powerplay time because they both shoot right-handed. However, both grew up in Calgary and Vlooswyk remembers participating in a few powerskating sessions with him.

Dupont, being as advanced as he is skill-wise, always skated with the older players, and Vlooswyk got to know him.

“He’s a great guy. Like I said he’s humble, he’s a hardworking guy and he’s just one of the boys. I think that’s what makes him so likable to be around,” he added.

Following the draft lottery a few weeks ago, the Everett Silvertips now hold the first overall selection in the upcoming 2024 WHL Prospects Draft on May 9.

Dupont is expected to be selected first overall and will play his first season coming up in the fall. At that point, Vlooswyk and Dupont will be opponents.

“Not really,” Vlooswyk said with a laugh when asked if he was looking forward to facing him next season. “It’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait to play against him next year and see how develops through the WHL.”

Son of former NHL defenceman Micki Dupont, Landon grew up in southern Alberta alongside his older brother Nolan.

Nolan, who’s three years older than his brother, suited up for the Blackfalds Bulldogs of the British Columbia Hockey League this year.

After signing with the Bulldogs, he tore a muscle in his shoulder two games into the season, which sidelined him, but he returned later in the year. He appeared in 10 games this season and is ready to suit up for the upcoming playoff series against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

He told The Advocate that he’s really proud of his brother.

“I’m not too surprised about it. He’s always been really good and I’m proud of him for the accomplishment,” Dupont said.

“He has lots to keep working for so I’ve been telling him to keep going and keep working hard.”

Although they’ve never played on the same team, they’ve had many spirited battles while practicing including many mini-stick and street hockey battles at home.

Watching him over the years, Nolan said his brother is mature on and off the ice.

“He’s really smart on the ice and his edge work is crazy… Just the way he skates is out of this world.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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