Game Changer: Blue Jackets Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois' Youth and Versatility Will Be An Advantage

By Sam Blazer on September 29, 2017 at 9:15 am
Pierre-Luc Dubois
Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

So, you want to play hockey in the NHL?

A lot has already been made of Pierre-Luc Dubois and what he is or isn't. As the third overall pick in 2016, it makes sense. There's pressure. Fans and the front office want to see what you have to contribute to a team that is already close to contending.

Many had begun to sour on Dubois before training camp started, after seeing him in action this past year and for what he wasn't able to do. Rightly so, as parts of last year weren't great for Dubois, but he's been a different player in this training camp with the Blue Jackets.

Corey Pronman, a prospect writer for The Athletic and formerly of ESPN, was asked if Dubois was the poster boy for an age-19 draft after a disappointing campaign last season (despite playing well at the Traverse City prospects tournament). His response wasn't encouraging.

He wouldn’t go third overall in a re-draft but he would probably still go top 10, I think, based on where I feel the industry is on him, top 12-13 as a floor.

Anyone reading would think that this is a perceived slight, but the bar for success needs to be adjusted. 

Dubois was penciled in at third-line center before training camp began and the previous occupier of that role, William Karlsson, didn't exactly tear up the league offensively. Clearing six goals and 19 assists isn't going to be hard for a player that will be given a role he can thrive in, especially when you consider the shot differential from Karlsson was less than 50 percent at even strength.

Having played the past few preseason games at left wing, it appears that the experiment at center has come to an end for Dubois -- at least this preseason. He has scored goals this preseason, logged minutes on the power play and contributed in other ways, all of which show the Blue Jackets are committed to getting him involved offensively.

"At wing, it's easier to get used to the game, you have a little less responsibility in the d-zone so that's easier," Dubois said last week. "In the offensive zone, it's pretty much the same thing. Wherever they put me, I'll play. I played every position last year so I don't mind."

Dubois isn't going to be relied upon as a defensive stopper. He is going to be placed with offensively gifted players (Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand) and will consistently start in the offensive zone. Understanding his role within the team and not having to live up to third overall pick status will be key. For all intents and purposes, he's part of the team now; his training camp performance has been one of a more relaxed and confident player compared to a year ago.

Playing him in an advantageous position is a pathway to continued growth. Head coach John Tortorella has previously done that with defenseman Zach Werenski and center Sam Gagner, the latter needing a fresh start after a poor season in Philadelphia.

Dubois' youth and versatility will allow him to succeed whether or not he knows it. Right now, they don't need him to be a No. 1 center. If he helps the team by contributing on the wing and can still produce, that's great. While some want him to reinvent the wheel, the Blue Jackets don't need that. They need replacement level or slightly better.

He's still a kid, but Dubois is showing with each passing game that he can make the Blue Jackets better. He isn't going to score every single goal and have it all figured out this year, and that's okay: expectation adjustment is necessary for allowing him to thrive, and with a successful move from center to the wing, he's on already on his way.