The Emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois

Columbus’ 19 year old rookie is shouldering a heavy burden this season, and playing exceptionally well doing it.

Many Columbus Blue Jackets fans were surprised, to say the very least, when GM Jarmo Kekalainen defied the conventional wisdom. If you’ll recall, the “big three” headed in to the draft were widely regarded as being Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi. Despite a solid scouting report, Dubois was seen as a middle of the top ten pick, a player on a tier below the three players listed above.

His scouting profile, via EliteProspects, follows:

A phenominal two-way power forward who thrives under pressure. He brings versatility, being able to play as a center or a winger, as well as elite skill and agility. His athleticism is exemplified in his strong skating that allows him to backcheck hard, explode up the ice in-transition, or propel himself up into hits that opponents won’t soon forget. His defensive zone play is excellent; he proactively finds and takes away shooting and passing lanes, and makes it tough on opponents to pinpoint any daylight. When he is on the ice, he is uncontainable and leads the forecheck; he creates the time and space for himself to be creative with the puck and finds a way to get it to the back of the net. He makes the players around him better, serving as an example of what hard work and skill can and will be able to produce.

A similarly punishing two-way forward with size and zero deficiencies, Anze Kopitar, is the type of player Dubois will aspire to become at the next level. Pierre-Luc Dubois has the potential to develop into an elite two-way forward who excels as a positive catalyst in every facet of the roles he can play, be it the dynamic scorer, the set-up man, the intimidating power forward, or the defensive-minded shutdown guy. He is the type of player nobody likes to play against. (Curtis Joe, EP 2016)

Pierre-Luc Dubois made the team out of training camp this season, initially seeing time in the bottom six forward group. Dubois scored his first NHL goal in the first game of the season, against the New York Islanders. He then went without a point for nearly a month before registering 3 points in 4 games at the start of November. He never found consistent linemates, playing with Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, and Boone Jenner, among others.

As injuries racked up (and Dubois grew more comfortable with the NHL game), he transitioned to playing first line center between Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson. Dubois currently heads in to the bye week with 10 goals, 12 assists, and 22 points to his name thus far, but his play far exceeds the raw goal scoring numbers.

Dubois’ play has been nothing short of outstanding when it comes to driving offensive chances and creating scoring opportunities. In 46 games played, he has a CF% of 57.72%, which is good for 6th in the NHL among skaters with a minimum 200 minutes played this season (for reference, Artemi Panarin is 7th, Zach Werenski 12th, and Seth Jones 27th). He has a scoring chances for percentage of 57.37%. His minutes are sheltered somewhat (65.49% of his zone starts come in the offensive zone), but playing on the first line and with the goal scoring threat that is Panarin, that’s to be expected. Dubois has more than held his own on the offensive end. The one complaint that could be made about his game is his faceoff success, where he is winning just a scant 40% of his chances.

Pierre-Luc Dubois is having an outstanding debut season in the NHL, and has exceeded all expectations thus far. His game has continued to grow, too: after registering just 2 points in his first 20 games, he has 20 points in his last 26 games. Dubois has blossomed once he was moved to center, and continues to play a fearless game, as recognized by head coach John Tortorella.

Dubois is going to be a franchise player for years to come.

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