The Pierre-Luc Dubois Audition Continues Tonight, Playing Left Wing As the Blue Jackets Face the Penguins

By Rob Mixer on September 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm
Pierre-Luc Dubois
Joe Maiorana - USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the Blue Jackets continued to feed young Markus Nutivaara into preseason action. Opponents with quality lineups, opponents with so-so lineups. Home games and road games.

It feels a lot like what Pierre-Luc Dubois is facing in this exhibition season.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets play their third of eight (ugh) preseason games when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena. It's the second appearance for Dubois, who lined up at center on Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. This time, he's on the wing.

Columbus will use the following forward deployment:

Left wing center right wing
Sonny Milano Zac Dalpe Vitaly Abramov
Pierre-Luc Dubois Lukas Sedlak Nick Foligno
Calvin Thurkauf Carter Camper Tyler Motte
Markus Hannikainen John Mitchell Justin Scott

Dubois played extensively on left wing before converting to center in his draft-eligible season, and that's where the Blue Jackets really took notice of his ability to not only play multiple positions, but also how quickly he became a quality center.

If he's going to make the team and stick around, the Blue Jackets want to see how Dubois handles both positions. The more likely scenario is that he makes the team as a center and holds down the No. 3 position, but what if, say, GM Jarmo Kekalainen closes a deal for Matt Duchene?

The Blue Jackets could keep Dubois still and use him on the wing, where he had much success before sliding into the middle with Cape Breton (QMJHL). They're also hopeful that his slow start to 2016-17 (which preceded his trade from Cape Breton to Blainville-Boisbriand) is merely an aberration, that he's more likely the player who finished the year with 37 points in 28 regular season games and not the one who had 18 in his first 20.

If you'll recall, used an interesting NHL comparison when describing Dubois' potential at the next level:

A similarly punishing two-way forward with size and zero deficiencies, Anze Kopitar, is the type of player Dubois will aspire to become at the next level. Pierre-Luc Dubois has the potential to develop into an elite two-way forward who excels as a positive catalyst in every facet of the roles he can play, be it the dynamic scorer, the set-up man, the intimidating power forward, or the defensive-minded shutdown guy.

His first showing against the Blackhawks was solid. Nothing flashy, but he looked more comfortable. Now, for Dubois to take another step and put his name in ink, he must show he can perform game-over-game and in a variety of situations. The Blue Jackets are putting him to the test.

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