When the Columbus Blue Jackets announced Pierre-Luc Dubois as their top pick in the 2016 draft, it shocked the hockey world. Hockey experts and fans alike had expected the Blue Jackets to pick Jesse Puljujarvi. However, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen stood firm on his decision even when fans expressed their doubt.
Now, 44 games into his hockey career Pierre-Luc Dubois at centre is giving the Columbus Blue Jackets something they desperately need.
Examining the Success of Pierre-Luc Dubois at Centre
Slow Start to the Season
Dubois didn’t have the strongest start to the season, despite getting his first NHL goal in his first game. After twenty games, Dubois had just two goals and two assists. To add on top of that he wasn’t getting much time on ice. His highest TOI during those twenty games came on October 7th, 2017, with 15:13.
Dubois also started the season on wing, not the centre position that Columbus drafted him to play. While playing on wing, he bounced around. He played with Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, and Artemi Panarin.
Fellow writer Nic Hendrickson looked at Dubois through 13 games and noted that he had been very unlucky. His PDO of 96.46 pointed towards unlucky at that point. There’s also the fact that Dubois’s shooting percentage through 13 games was just 6.7 percent.
Dubois Moves to Centre
After any injury to Lukas Sedlak, Dubois moved to centre. It would be a test for the 19-year-old who had not played the position for some time.
After moving to centre, Pierre-Luc Dubois relative Corsi jumped up to 9.2 percent. That number is among the top-five for players with at least 500 minutes. His PDO is leaning towards the more average side with a 98.8.
There is also the fact that the points seem to just keep coming from the young centre. After only two points after his first 20 games, Dubois now has 22 points through 44 games – including ten goals and twelve assists.
Dubois also is not afraid to play physical, he already has 72 hits in 44 games. He even has a fight on the year against Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy. Even though Columbus doesn’t necessarily need another player who can through the body around, it is nice to have one who can also score.
The Blue Jackets powerplay is still hovering around 12%, an improvement from the 8% it had been a month ago. While Dubois is not the sole reason for that improvement, his seven points on the powerplay certainly helps. Five of those points coming in the past ten games.
Despite currently averaging 15:38, Dubois is still somewhat sheltered. He starts more often in the offensive zone than the defensive. Yet, he has been thrown into the deep end by being given the number one centre job. Alexander Wennberg has struggled and been injured this season. Dubois has faced off against Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, and fellow 2016 draftee Auston Matthews. There are times where he makes mistakes a rookie would make, giveaways or not defending as well as he should, but he has not looked out of place.
The Success of the Josh Anderson – Dubois – Panarin Line
Pre-season speculation had Dubois either centring a bottom six line or playing wing; speculation also had Panarin playing with Wennberg. Now, the two are playing together and look better than ever.
Anderson was also added to the line creating a top line that no one could have predicted.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 9, 2017
Before being moved with Dubois and Anderson, Panarin seemed snake-bitten. His first goal came on October 13th and his second wasn’t until November 6th. Now, the points have been coming a little easier. In the past ten games, Panarin has eight points – four of those goals. With Dubois assisting on three of his eleven goals.
Panarin’s relative corsi is currently an 11.3, the first time a player has broken the 11 percent mark since the 2013-14 season.
— Hockey Reference (@hockey_ref) January 9, 2018
Perhaps the most surprising piece of the line is Josh Anderson. Many wondered how Anderson would play after the contract standoff. So far, Anderson has 24 points in 42 games, just five points off his career high from last season. Dubois has assisted on four of his 14 goals.
A Perfect Storm
One of the drawbacks of Pierre-Luc Dubois at centre is that he sometimes isn’t as much of a playmaker as centre are. However, by playing with Panarin the line gets a much-needed playmaker. Most of Panarin’s points have been assists, including a five primary assist night, and he can see the ice better than most forwards on the team.
Panarin’s playmaking skills, along with his speed, creates endless opportunities no matter who he’s playing with.
Panarin has also assisted on five of Dubois’s ten goals and four of Anderson’s fourteen goals.
One of Dubois’s strengths is his fearlessness, as head coach John Tortorella calls it. He’s not afraid of any situation or to make plays. He can drive a play, while Panarin can create a play seemingly out of nothing or just all on his own. Both Dubois and Anderson have no problems driving the net.
Anderson though is much better at hanging out close towards the net looking for a rebound or a tip. Having a player who is ready to get those sort of greasy goals can help lead to more goals. He’s also one of the more defensively sound players among the ones on his line. Having played a bottom-six role has helped develop that game.
Being the youngest player on the youngest team in a number centre role can’t be easy. Pierre-Luc Dubois, however, is taking everything in stride.
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