RAYSIDE-BALFOUR— Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis is playing a much bigger role this season with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
In fact, Dokis-Dupuis, a member of Dokis First Nation, is now one of the go-to players for the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) squad.
Dokis-Dupuis, a 19-year-old forward, has already surpassed the 34 points he earned in his rookie season with the Canadians last year.
After his first 39 matches this season, Dokis-Dupuis had collected 43 points (16 goals and 27 assists). The Canadians have 11 regular season outings remaining for him to add to his totals.
Dokis-Dupuis entered the week as one of six Rayside-Balfour players engaged in a serious battle for the team scoring lead.
Four of his teammates — Nicholas DeGrazia, Mitchell Martin, Brady Maltais and Benjamin Hatanaka— were tied in points, all having racked up 44 points apiece. Another teammate, Matthew Belanger, was right on their tails having picked up 40 points.
“It’s a confidence booster,” Dokis-Dupuis said. “It’s nice to be one of the top guys on the team.”
Dokis-Dupuis added it is positive for the Canadians to have a large number of offensive weapons instead of just a few players the squad relies on.
“I think our team is a well-balanced team,” he said. “I think it’s a very good thing to have, especially moving forward into the playoffs.”
The Canadians are enjoying their share of successes this season. After 45 games, the Rayside-Balfour squad had posted a 31-10-3-1 record. With their 66 points, the Canadians were tied for top spot in the league’s six-team West Division with the Blind River Beavers.
“We’re a very skilled team,” Dokis-Dupuis said. “Whenever we go to work hard, we’re a tough team to beat.”
He added he believes the Canadians are one of four squads that would be considered serious contenders to win the NOJHL championship this season.
Dokis-Dupuis is hoping Rayside-Balfour not only accomplishes this feat but also has some additional success after that.
The NOJHL champs will advance to the Dudley Hewitt Cup, which begins Apr. 28 in Fort Frances.
That four-squad tournament will be hosted by the Fort Frances Lakers, members of the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).
The tourney will also include the SIJHL champs (or league finalists if the Lakers win) and the playoff champions from the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The squad that captures the Dudley Hewitt Cup will advance to May’s national Junior A tournament. That event, which will be staged in the Manitoba city of Portage la Prairie, was dubbed the RBC Cup in recent years but has rebranded to the Centennial Cup in 2020.
“I think we can get to [the national tournament],” Dokis-Dupuis said.
Canadians’ general manager Jeff Forsyth was well acquainted with Dokis-Dupuis even before he joined the Rayside-Balfour squad.
That’s because during the 2017-18 season, the teen played for the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves’ Midget AAA team. Forsyth was an assistant coach for that squad.
“Now that he’s in his second year, he’s more comfortable and more confident,” Forsyth said. “And he’s relied upon a bit more.”
Prior to this season, the Canadians’ brass made Dokis-Dupuis one of the team’s assistant captains.
“It’s definitely nice to be looked on to be a leader on the team,” he said.
Dokis-Dupuis has one season of junior hockey eligibility remaining after this year. He believes he would like to continue his career after that by playing for a college or university team.
“There’s a future for him in the game,” Forsyth said. “We’re hoping to get him back next year. And then on to university hockey after that.”
Dokis-Dupuis is currently taking some part-time business courses at Sudbury’s Laurentian University. He’s not sure if he will continue his studies next season as he has applied for the powerline technician program at Cambrian College, also in Sudbury.