John Tortorella scrambled the lines a decent amount this past season - and his game of matchmaker finally worked (even if it took till February).
After only playing roughly 30 games together – all at the last stretch of the 2017-2018 season – the Columbus Blue Jackets' first line is ready to rival just about any other top group in the league.
Centering Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson was certainly a big request initially for Pierre-Luc Dubois, the former No. 3 overall pick who was shunned by many CBJ faithful on draft night when he was “surprisingly” taken instead of Jesse Puljujärvi.
really hoping a homeless guy didn't tell Jarmo to draft Dubois
— Sr VP of Trivia (@RedsGM) June 25, 2016
Ripping off one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history made the transition to play with the best two offensive players on the team a *little* easier.
The doubters were right at the start – sort of. Dubois struggled in his first few months of his first NHL stint, only recording five points in his first 20 games. By the time he was called to be with 'Bread' and Cam, he was in the top-five of the club in points. He was ready.
The first half of Dubois' season was spent on a few different line pairs, eventually finding decent success with Panarin and Josh Anderson. But right before the deadline, Tortorella swung for the fences and threw some of his top goal scorers together, and P.D.A. was born.
In all seriousness, how did the Jackets' twitter account not run with that pun?
Starting together in early February, Panarin, Dubois and Atkinson quickly became one of the hottest lines in the league. In five-on-five scenarios alone, they recorded 17 goals and were only on the ice for eight opposing goals.
This newly-minted and dynamic trio was ranked No. 34 in 'goals for' amongst all lines in the league at the end of the regular season. For only playing about a third of the season together, that's actually ridiculous.
For reference, the top lines in the league included the Landeskog-Mackinnon-Rantanen beast of a thread in Colorado, William Karlsson's in Vegas, and another that included a kid named Auston Matthews, one of the league's brightest stars.
Landeskog and Karlsson's lines were tied for first in the league for most goals for in five-on-five scenarios with 47.
If we optimistically (and very hypothetically) assumed that this Jackets' first line played all 82 games together last season and were equally as productive the whole year as they were in their stretch this past spring, they would've had 51 goals for by the end of the year.
Dubois didn't have much to do with this one, but holy - check out how simple this looked:
Now, that's not fair to assume, and a lot can change this upcoming season (as we've all been aware of), but if Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson sticks together after a few months and playoff round of building chemistry - they will be a serious threat to be one of the best lines in the league this upcoming season.
That, folks, will certainly help win a first round series.
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