The Columbus Blue Jackets shook up the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by opting to take the path less traveled and pass on Jesse Puljujarvi. They instead decided to take Canadian wonderkid Pierre-Luc Dubois, who many now see as a very smart selection to add to the stable of workhorses in The Buckeye State.
Pierre-Luc Dubois Revitalized After Trade
Dubois had nothing short of an amazing season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL during 2015-16. In 62 games over the course of the regular season he scored an impressive 42 goals and put up a whopping 99 points, good for a 1.59 points-per-game pace. It was a solid year to have going into his first year of eligibility for the NHL Entry Draft. This resulted in him jumping a few spots to where he was projected to be taken, all the way up to third overall.
The 2016-17 season, however, has not been nearly as kind to Dubois as his draft eligible season was. Through 20 games this year with Cape Breton he was under a point per game pace, with only 18 points. This was a truly disappointing season for a top three draft pick, and something that had many people inside and outside of the Blue Jackets organization questioning whether Dubois was the right choice.
Despite his slumping season in the “Q” he was still picked to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in late December/early January. This tournament wasn’t exactly the catalyst many were hoping it would be for Dubois, and he was regularly criticized by many Canadian fans on his relatively subpar performances throughout. Despite expectations being high for Dubois, and rightly so, he only managed to pick up five assists over the course of seven games on his way to a silver medal with Team Canada.
Around the same time as the World Junior Championships it was announced that Cape Breton had traded Dubois to a relatively new QMJHL club, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Many just saw this as Cape Breton opting to get what they could for Dubois while they still could to build for the future, rather than rely on the slumping forward.
It seems as if this trade has been good for all parties involved, especially Dubois. Since arriving in Blainville-Boisbriand he has played in 12 games and scored 12 goals, adding nine assists as well. The 1.75 points per game pace he is currently on is what was expected of him before the season started, and with the added expectations after being taken by Columbus third overall last summer.
Since joining the Armada Dubois has begun to perform at the level expected of him. In his first two games for his new club he racked up six points, two goals and four assists, to bring himself above a point per game pace for the first time in the 2016-17 QMJHL season. Dubois was even able to score his first hat trick of the season after joining his new club. And another promising statistic is that he has had at least one point in 10 of his 12 games with the Armada.
One of the primary differences, and one that has likely made an impact, is that he has been playing primarily at left wing rather than center. This might come as a saddening fact to some Blue Jackets fans, as the team could surely use another true center to fill in a roster spot that could be lost to the upcoming expansion draft this summer.
This improved performance at his natural position leads many to believe that left wing is where he will slot in when he eventually makes the jump to the NHL. Dubois could already slot into a third line role with the Jackets, based off current talent and expected ceiling. This would be bad news for a young player like Markus Hannikainen, unless either him or Dubois make a position switch. It would also see Matt Calvert slot down to the fourth line, something that would make their depth even more frightening for opposing teams than it already is.
Depending on who is taken by the Las Vegas Golden Knights this summer, whether it will be Boone Jenner, William Karlsson, or even someone like Josh Anderson, rest assured that there is a replacement in the near future. The trade away from Cape Breton might just be the biggest favor the organization could have done for the Jackets. Look for Dubois to make the team next year, and hopefully continue his stellar play for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and into next preseason.