NHL Notebook: Prospective team name survey for potential Utah NHL team catches eyes and the WHL grants exceptional status to defenceman Landon DuPont

Photo credit:WHL
Zach Laing
26 days ago
Ryan Smith and the Smith Entertainment group are continuing to catch the eyes of hockey fans, and hockey minds around the league.
Months after formally requesting the NHL to begin its expansion process to bring an NHL team to the Beehive State, Smith and his group released a survey Monday, asking those willing to fill out the form about what a potential Utah NHL team could be named.
And on Monday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, Frank Seravalli spoke about what could be next.
Look, we’ve known this forever, you don’t get an NHL franchise without kissing the ring. You have to play by [commissioner] Gary Bettman’s rules. Nothing that any prospective franchise owner does, is done without permission. I’m not saying he didn’t overtly give permission; you can bet with 100 percent certainty that Ryan Smith advised the NHL that he will be putting out a survey today collecting team names for a potential franchise.
If it were to be an expansion franchise, why would you need to do it now? They wouldn’t be beginning play next season. So, what’s the hurry? If the Arizona Coyotes are relocating… I would tell you that very much remains alive, and if not a strong possibility.

The next exceptional player

The Western Hockey League has granted the second player in its history exceptional status.
The league announced Monday that Landon DuPont will follow in the footsteps of current NHL rookie Connor Bedard.
DuPont, 14, just finished up a season of u18 hockey with Calgary’s Edge School Prep, where he scored 19 goals and 62 points in 30 games, adding another five markers and 16 points in five games. And while he finished third in the league’s scoring, as well as setting a CSSHL record for points from a defenceman, there’s so much more than that that goes into the WHL granting him such status, which will allow him to play in the league at 15-years-old.
As noted by Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, the decision was made by a Hockey Canada panel tasked with watching DuPont, interviewing him, and talking to his coaches, teammates and a psychologist who looked at the player’s ability to handle such a step.
DuPont, the son of former NHL’er Micki, is now the ninth player in Canadian Major Junior Hockey to be granted such status, following Bedard, Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Shane Wright, Joe Veleno, Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad and Michael Misa.
Holding the first overall pick in this year’s WHL draft are the Everett Silvertips, who will now have the chance to draft the 5’11. 170 lb. defenceman.
What will they be getting? Someone who brings more than just high-end offence, Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis writes.
At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, DuPont isn’t huge by any means, but he’s 14. Most kids his age are still figuring out puberty. Like most modern-day defenders, DuPont is incredible with the puck, moving quickly and decisively. He’s more creative than any defenseman we’ve seen in quite some time. With the extra space, DuPont can absolutely take over a power play, either firing a hard shot or using it to take defenders out of position before setting up someone else.
But DuPont is much more than just offense. He blocks shots, competes hard, and has the speed to get back after a scoring chance to break up a play. For his age, scouts have described DuPont as physically and mentally mature, allowing him to stack up against almost everyone.
DuPont isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until 2027. So much can change, as we’ve seen already a few times with exceptional status players. Aaron Ekblad was the first defender to earn the honor, and, when healthy, he’s one of the better defensemen in the NHL. But then there’s Day, the only other D-man to earn it. A decade after debuting with the Mississauga Steelheads, he’s sitting in the AHL with Syracuse, and he has just played two NHL games with Tampa Bay.
There’s a long path here for DuPont to face all the ups and downs that any junior player will. Even the best of the best to advance to major junior have struggled at points. But anyone who has scouted DuPont the past two years knows he’s ready for a new challenge. He’s well-deserving of exceptional status, but it’s up to him – like Bedard before him – to prove what he can do at the next level.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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