Pierre-Luc Dubois (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
The Blue Jackets shook up the draft by selecting Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall, and the 18-year-old said he wants to prove Columbus right by playing so well he forces them to keep him in the NHL this coming campaign.
From the P.K. Subban trade to the Taylor Hall deal, the off-season has had its share of surprises. But prior to either being dealt and before free agency even opened, Pierre-Luc Dubois was part of one of the more surprising moments of the summer.
For much of the year leading up to the 2016 draft, speculation was that the first three picks were as good as set in stone with some combination of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi as the assumed top three. The Blue Jackets threw a wrench in that, though, when they selected Dubois with the third-overall pick.
But being taken third overall was just the first surprise Dubois hopes to deliver. While Matthews and Laine are expected to make their respective clubs, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, out of training camp, Dubois isn’t necessarily a lock to join Columbus. That said, the 18-year-old has designs on making the Blue Jackets’ decision for them.
“I know Columbus is going to make the decision, but I am trying to force them into keeping me,” Dubois told NHL.com’s Mike Morreale. “That is all I can do. I am training in Columbus and I’ll be training there until rookie camp so all I can do is get there in shape and we’ll see what happens.”
Given the way the Blue Jackets performed this past season, posting the fourth-worst record in the league, there’s reason for them to give some consideration to Dubois’ standing in the lineup. He’s big, strong and showed this past season that he can be an incredibly productive scorer. In 62 games with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Dubois posted 42 goals and 99 points.
That kind of production has Dubois with some high hopes for what he could do in his rookie season, too. Most pre-season Calder Trophy talk has been centered on Matthews, Laine and Dylan Strome — albeit with good reason — but Dubois said he believes he could have a shot.
“It’s a different level, but if I am in there I think I have a good shot at [the Calder],” Dubois said. “When you are in [the NHL], you don’t really think about it. You just want to play and help your team win. If you win an award like that, it is an honor.”
The one thing that could be hindering Dubois’ chances of making the Blue Jackets roster straight out of camp, though, is that his best shot at earning a spot may not be at his natural position. He was drafted as a center, but the Blue Jackets have Brandon Dubinsky, Alexander Wennberg, William Karlsson and free agent signee Sam Gagner as options down the middle. That could leave Dubois playing the wing. He doesn’t take issue with that, but said he feels more useful as a pivot.
“I like playing the wing, but I think I’m more involved at center,” Dubois told Morreale. “You are helping the defensemen on the breakouts and you are helping your wingers out too. I feel I play more of a 200-foot game when I am in the middle and I contribute more in that sense.”
Regardless of position, though, it sounds like Dubois will be striving to make Columbus’ decision to keep him in the NHL an easy one. And if he cracks the Blue Jackets’ roster, maybe the draft day surprise won’t be the only one of Dubois’ rookie year.
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