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Blue Jackets Appear to Have Found Their Elusive No. 1 Center

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois likely won’t be making the final three cut for the Calder Memorial Trophy consideration this summer, but that’s more a testament to the great rookie class the NHL has with the likes of Mathew Barzal, Brock Boeser (NHL All-Star Game MVP), and Yanni Gourde. Each top three in scoring among rookies and all with at least 50 points. And there’s an amazing crop just beyond those three.

Dubois, however, has the scoring touch of his own. More importantly, he is a budding star and No. 1 center the Columbus Blue Jackets have long craved.

With 37 points this season, Dubois rounds out the top 10 among rookie scoring (15 goals, 22 assists) and is just three points away from having the most points for any Jackets rookie forward for an individual season. Jakub Voracek is third with 38 points in 2009 and Rick Nash is second with 39 points in 2003.

Defenseman Zach Werenski set the overall record with the 47 points he recorded last season.

The Jackets have long been searching for a consistent top-line center — by the way, Seth Jones has more points than that one guy, 2015 All-Star Ryan Johansen — and there was the Alexander Wennberg breakout last season. But beyond that, going from the Jeff Carter days to the Matt Duchene trade rumors last summer, it has been a continued focal point in trying to find someone to lock down that top spot.

Before the season, I wrote about Dubois looking to crack the Blue Jackets’ opening night roster and the progress he had made in the minors up to that point. During this 2017-18 campaign, he has appeared in every Blue Jackets game to date.

No one is thinking about Jesse Puljujarvi anymore.

Dubois started his career shuffling between the third and fourth-line wing position before opportunity struck and he found a living between Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson. And lately, due to Andersons’ injury, Cam Atkinson has enjoyed life with Panarin and Dubois.

Among players with at least 600 minutes played, Dubois is second on the Blue Jackets with 56.60 CF%, and is 13th — leads all rookies — in that metric across the league. Panarin leads the Jackets with 57.35% and is third among NHLers in that rate.

John Tortorella has talked all season-long about the emergence of Dubois and his facing opponents’ top lines every single night. Frankly, he has held his own quite well and is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league.

Such as the time he and Andrew Cogliano got into a little kerfuffle.

And being able to set up his teammates for winning goals.

Through it all, we know how Tortorella feels about Dubois.

When I think about the Blue Jackets to this point, and how Panarin, Jones, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Werenski — to name a few — have stepped up in a huge way this season, Dubois is right in the thick of that conversation.

It’s going to be fun to watch this kid — and team — further progress.