The National Hockey League is renowned for parity. Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly wouldn’t have it any other way. This parity comes with the fact that each and every season sees the emergence of new clubs vying for a legitimate shot at Lord Stanley. Parity also appears in the form of elite-level players on the ice. The Columbus Blue Jackets, like 30 other NHL franchises, are no exception and have their fair share of grade-A talent. With names such as Seth Jones, Josh Anderson, Boone Jenner, Elvis Merzlikins, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, and Nick Foligno, there is certainly no shortage of talent in Columbus.
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Over the past few years, the Blue Jackets have formed an identity of playing hard, fast, and “in your face” hockey. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning a season ago. Two other elite-level players appear in the form of centerman Pierre-Luc Dubois and defenseman Zach Werenski. If you could only choose one player, would you opt for a bonafide star-in-the-making down the middle in Dubois or a dashing, thrilling, and puck-moving defenseman in Werenski? Let’s read on and find out.
The Case for Pierre-Luc Dubois
Dubois is a rising star in the NHL. His talent, skillset, size, and leadership abilities make a compelling case for him to don a letter on his uniform as early as next season. Set to turn 22 in a few weeks, Dubois has an extremely promising and successful career ahead of him. This season alone has seen the Sainte-Agathe-des-Mots, Quebec native transform, and further refine his game to become one of the most dominating and electrifying two-way centers in the NHL. On many nights Dubois is the driving force of the Blue Jackets with an uncanny ability to play both sides of the puck at a superstar level.
Dubois is excellent in the defensive third of the rink and resourceful in the offensive zone. From a statistical standpoint, the last two seasons have seen him combine to tally 47 goals and 62 assists for 109 points. This year, prior to the halt in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubois was in the midst of another stellar campaign with 18 goals and 49 points through 70 games. Set to become one of the most intriguing restricted free agents (RFA) at season’s end, Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen better have his checkbook ready!
So what is it about Dubois that makes him such a lethal on-ice presence? For starters, he’s a human dynamo. At 6’0, 220 pounds, he seems to be getting more and more comfortable each passing year. The centreman also possesses the work ethic, and sheer determination to get better, which are all hallmarks of a great player. He’s one of those players who are so much more valuable than his statistics suggest.
When he’s on the puck, Dubois masterfully uses his reach and stature to his advantage. His wingspan and ability in transition are also well-above average in comparison to other first and second-line centermen in the game. In a league that places so much emphasis on a prototypical number-one centerman, Dubois fits the bill and then some for the Blue Jackets.
The Case for Zach Werenski
Werenski has enjoyed an incredible season for the Blue Jackets in 2019-20. Fresh off a three-year, $15 million contract extension that he signed back in September, Werenski has taken his game to new heights this year. It’s not often we see 20-goal scorers emerge from the blue line, but Werenski accomplished this feat in just 63 games played this campaign. In fact, Werenski is the only defenseman to reach the 20-goal mark this season. That’s quite the feat, to say the least, from the Grosse Pointe, Michigan native.
As a player, Werenski is an excellent skater with a real knack for offense. He loves to jump up in the rush, carry the puck and he can quarterback a power play with the best of them. He’s also still just 22 years old and vastly improving from one season to the next. In Werenski, the Jackets have an immense talent on their hands and form one of the better defensive units in the league.
The Jackets have not one, but two “real deal”, game-changing defensemen at their disposal. They include Werenski himself, and the ever-talented Seth Jones. The two perfectly complement each other and are certainly as dynamic a duo as you’ll find on defense. When the NHL postseason (hopefully) returns this summer, Werenski will be one Blue Jacket to keep your eye on.
Both Dubois and Werenski are integral pieces to the overall success of the Blue Jackets. In Dubois, Columbus has the luxury of one of the best and most dynamic young studs in the game. His unique combination of size, strengths, skill and speed would have any other team salivating for his services. Werenski, on the other hand, provides both the offensive instincts and defensive acumen which would be an asset to any NHL club. However, the astounding winner of this “pick one” goes to Dubois.
Dubois takes the crown as a player who the Blue Jackets can build around for the next decade. “Heir to the proverbial throne” to wear the “C”, in my opinion, he should be valued as an “untouchable” on the Jackets for so many reasons. He is utterly irreplaceable and the ideal candidate to drive a franchise forward. Dubois is the “picture-perfect” centerman in today’s modern game and arguably the single-most valuable players on the Blue Jackets.