Pierre-Luc Dubois is having a terrific rookie season.
And, despite not getting a formal nomination for the Calder Trophy by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA), we can certainly count him among the NHL's best first-year players in 2017-18.
Those in the final running for the Calder Trophy: Vancouver's Brock Boeser, Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, and Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes.
Think wayyyyy back to Blue Jackets training camp: everyone was concerned about the team's depth at center ice. They had Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Dubinsky, maybe Nick Foligno and Lukas Sedlak. They had swung and missed on a deal for Matt Duchene, who was traded from Colorado to Ottawa early in the season.
They needed someone to step forward, and Dubois did just that.
John Tortorella has often said he wasn't sure how much Dubois could handle, but the kid handled every challenge and excelled. After a few failed experiments with different players centering Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson, Tortorella put Dubois there with a hope – not a belief – that it would work.
[Ron Howard voice] It did.
Dubois scored 20 goals and added 28 assists in his debut season, the best rookie year in Blue Jackets history. Dubois passed Zach Werenski, who put up 47 points in his rookie year a season ago. He has three points in the first five Stanley Cup playoff games of his career, and has shown he can handle tough assignments and still drive play at 5-on-5.
Look around the league and it's clear to see why Dubois had a hard time getting a Calder nomination: Winnipeg's Kyle Connor scored 30 goals and didn't break into the top three. Charlie McAvoy was one of the Boston Bruins' best defensemen as a 19-year-old was also on the outside of the final ballot.