He's a Rookie in Name Only Blackhawks' Dumont Looks like Something Special

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Byline: Tim Sassone Daily Herald Sports Writer

He isn't the fastest of skaters, yet he gets where he needs to go quickly enough.

And at 6-feet-1, 187 pounds, he is hardly an imposing physical specimen.

But what Blackhawks rookie left winger J.P. Dumont can do is score goals. Lots of them.

Dumont has been so impressive in training camp and looked so comfortable playing in the NHL late last season with the Hawks, that scoring 30 goals in 1999-2000 might just be the tip of the iceberg as to what this Montreal native can accomplish someday.

He has the potential to be that good.

"It's a God-given ability he's got," says Hawks coach Lorne Molleken. "He's a pure goal scorer, no question. He can get open, he's capable of beating guys one-on-one in the tough areas and he can shoot the puck. He reads plays well and reacts to situations, and that's the difference between being a good player and a great player."

The 21-year-old Dumont has piled up goals everywhere he's played, including the NHL, where he scored nine times in just 25 games with the Hawks down the stretch last season.

In his last three years in junior hockey at Val-d'Or in the Quebec League, Dumont had seasons of 57, 44 and 48 goals. In the 1998 Quebec League playoffs, Dumont scored 31 goals in 19 games to break a record held by Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

Last year in his first pro season with Portland in the American Hockey League, Dumont notched 32 goals in 50 games. Actually, he had 32 goals in 38 games after going scoreless in his first 12.

Don't bother asking Dumont how he does it. He doesn't know, nor does he want to analyze why the puck just seems to find the back of the net with him.

"Sometimes I miss my shot and I score," said Dumont. "It's always been like that. But I don't want to talk about it."

Dumont was the third player selected in the 1996 draft by the New York Islanders, who spent almost two years trying to sign him.

In what might live as Hawks general manager Bob Murray's finest trade, he acquired Dumont from the Islanders on May 30, 1998 for center Dmitri Nabokov. That was just one day before the Islanders would have relinquished the rights to Dumont and he would have gone back into the '98 draft for failing to sign within the two-year window following his selection.

Nabokov had been the Hawks' No. 1 draft pick in 1995 but was already showing signs by '98 that he wasn't going to be anything special.

Nabokov spent most of last season at Lowell in the AHL, scoring 17 goals and 42 points in 73 games. He is no sure bet to make the Islanders this year, either.

"To me, I still don't understand how we got him as a player for Nabokov," said Hawks assistant coach Denis Savard. "We got a quality, quality player we didn't expect, but somehow we got him and he's going to be a big part of what our team is all about this season.

"You can see when a player is good because he wants the puck. …