Defenseman Landon DuPont has become just the second player in Western Hockey League history to be granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada.

DuPont is eligible to compete in the league on a full-time basis as a 15-year-old starting next season. The Calgary-born defenseman joins Chicago Blackhawks rookie sensation Connor Bedard as the only WHL players to earn an Exceptional Player exception. Bedard joined the Regina Pats as a 15-year-old in 2020.

“[Bedard] actually just sent me a quick message, so that was pretty surreal,” DuPont told ESPN on Monday. “He just told me to enjoy every moment of it and have fun, so that was special.”

DuPont turns 15 years old on May 28.

“I’ve just been playing with kids that are much older than me and bigger than me ever since I started playing hockey,” DuPont said. “I just think growing up with them, and playing with them, has really helped me develop as a player and as a person. So I really think that I’m ready to take that jump and enter the league early.”

He’s eligible to be selected in the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 9. The Everett Silvertips hold the first overall pick, having acquired it from the Kamloops Blazers in a 2023 trade.

His father is Micki DuPont, who appeared in games with the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues before finishing his career in Europe in 2019.

Landon DuPont becomes just the third defenseman in Canadian Hockey League history to be granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada. The other two were Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers, the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft who joined the Barrie Colts in 2011; and Sean Day, who ended up as a third-round pick for the New York Rangers in 2016 and is currently playing for the AHL Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s affiliate. Day joined the Mississauga Steelheads in 2013.

Overall, DuPont is just the ninth player to earn Exceptional Player Status in the CHL. Among his predecessors were NHL stars like Connor McDavid (2012) and John Tavares (2005).

Standing at 5-foot-11, the right-shot defenseman spent the 2023-24 season playing for the Edge School U18 Prep squad in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, scoring 62 points in 30 games. Scouts have raved about his skating ability and hockey sense. DuPont said he considered playing forward earlier in this career because of those attributes.

“I always liked playing forward. I always wanted to play forward, but I always knew that defense was best for me and where I played best,” DuPont said. “There were some tournaments where I was forward and it was lots of fun, but I always knew that I was born to be a D-man.”

DuPont counts Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes as NHL players he attempts to emulate on the ice.

To achieve Exceptional Player status, Hockey Alberta had to petition Hockey Canada on DuPont’s behalf. The Hockey Canada Special Evaluation Panel reviewed his hockey and academic documentation, accessed his maturity an determined that playing in the WHL would benefit him as a person and a player.

“Landon not only boasts impressive hockey ability that will allow him to succeed in the WHL at a young age, but he also possesses the incredible maturity required to be an exemplary young person off the ice,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice president of high performance and hockey operations with Hockey Canada.