Gabriel Dumont is one of few players that has been in our Top 25 Under 25 series every year it has ran. Generally fluttering around the 20-25 range, he has been playing mostly with the Canadiens' AHL affiliate for nearly six seasons. He figures to be the top line centre for the freshly minted Ice Caps team when things get started in the fall.
A fifth-round pick in 2009, Dumont looked like he could be a steal as a late-round selection when he was drafted. Through four years with the Drummonville Voltigeurs, he increased his scoring exponentially every season, culminating in a 51-goal season his final year. He was playing with Sean Couturier that year, but it's very hard to ignore any offensive outbreak like that.
This particular player is one who likely benefits in his ranking due to one very important thing that we know about him; he is capable of playing in the NHL. In 18 call-up games since the 2011-12 season, his one goal and two assists haven't exactly set the world on fire, but he rarely looked out of place in a glaring way. The big question for Dumont is whether he is capable of someday making the transition from replacement level forward, and becoming a regular roster player with the Canadiens.
He will begin the coming season with the St. John's Ice Caps, and as last year's captain of the Bulldogs, he is likely to be looked upon to fill that leadership role with the new team as well. The last four seasons have seen him join the Canadiens for at least a couple of games, so it also wouldn't be surprising if he cracked the big club for relief duty at some point.
The votes for Dumont were rather spread out, with most of the panel giving him a spot in the top 25, and seven voters electing to place him outside of it. He also grabbed a high vote of 12, so the panel was definitely split on exactly where Dumont should land.
Top 25 Under 25 History
|2010 #18||2011 #21||2012 #25||2013 #20||2014 #22|
Dumont has been in the top 25 every year since the beginning, but it seems that he is on a general downward trend in his ranking. As he's improved every year as a member of the Bulldogs, at the very least our panel is not yet ready to give up on him.
Dumont is not a world beater in the sense of providing offense, but he's been one of the more consistent producers in Hamilton, and as mentioned he's been on an upward trend in the AHL since 2010-11. He has a good shot with a sneaky release, and this helps him to be able to beat goalies from a distance, although he likes to get into the dirty areas.
He plays a tough, high energy game. He's relentless on players in the defensive zone, using his body well to separate players from the puck, which opens up space for his linemates. At times, he can be quite the pest for other teams despite his small size, and he has the ability to get under their skin quite a bit. He plays a solid two-way game, applies great puck pressure in the defensive zone, and has excellent faceoff skills.
Perhaps Dumont's biggest asset that would help him get an NHL job would be the fact that he uses these skills to serve as a solid penalty killer. Given that the current edition of the Canadiens is pretty good at killing penalties, he may not be desperately needed in that regard, but if injuries arise he could step up and fit into the special teams quite nicely.
If Dumont is destined to be nothing more than a fourth-line grinder at the NHL level, size is likely his biggest issue in that regard.Yes, players of smaller builds can make it in the NHL, but he leaves something to be desired in terms of physicality given the style with which he plays. He doesn't hesitate to fight, or to hit, and he likes to get to the dirty area around the net. Simply put, he plays a bigger man's game, and it remains unclear if he has the physicality to do that at the NHL level.
He can also run into disciplinary issues, getting into penalty trouble at the wrong times. For a player at the NHL level to be saddled with penalty kill duties and a majority of defensive zone time, that player would be expected to keep his nose clean as much as possible. He did drop down to 88 penalty minutes last year from his lofty 111 in 2013-14, so he's starting to trend down, but it remains an area for improvement.
At 24, turning 25 this season, it would be tough to confidently predict that he'll become a regular roster player with the Canadiens. It's not impossible for a player to break into the NHL at his age, but it isn't extremely likely either. He's almost sure to get a measure of time as a replacement forward this year, but with other young players beginning to push from the farm team, he's got some stiff competition even for those short call ups.
Back in 2013, Stephan Cooper wrote that he "practically screams replaceable talent." Those are unfortunately harsh words, but in Dumont's case they appear to be rather fitting. He's capable of playing with the big club in replacement minutes, but they may have three to four new guys on the farm this year that can do exactly that, and may even be able to do it more successfully.
If Dumont fancies himself capable of earning a roster spot in Montreal, or anywhere else in the NHL, step number one would be to cut those penalty minutes down as much as possible. I fully believe he is capable of taking fourth line minutes in the NHL, but to do that on a regular basis he'll really need to stay disciplined.