Where would the Columbus Blue Jackets be without Pierre-Luc Dubois? It seems no matter what situation he finds himself in, he comes through.
Dubois scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win Saturday night over the Philadelphia Flyers. You’d think from the move he put on Brian Elliott that he was a master of shootouts.
This was not only Dubois’ first career NHL shootout attempt, it was his first ever shootout attempt at any level.
Dubois Continues to Shine
“I just think he’s accepted everything thrown at him and has succeeded.” coach John Tortorella said of Dubois postgame. “I wanted to give him an opportunity.”
Talk about taking a golden opportunity and running with it. The Blue Jackets are without four of their regular starters including two centers. Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Dubinsky, Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray are all out of the lineup.
The top line consists of Dubois, Josh Anderson and Artemi Panarin. They are the most consistent line in Columbus this season, especially since the injuries. Dubois isn’t phased by big moments.
Dubois handled his first regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins about as well as anyone could for his age. He factored in on both goals. He followed that up by playing a solid defensive game against the Flyers before lifting his team to victory in the shootout.
Overall this season, Dubois has 8-9-17 in 37 games. Considering the start he had playing limited minutes, he’s on a tear now. He has 12 points in his last 14 games and a shootout winner. That translates to a points per 60 in all situations of 2.88 in those 14 games. It gets better.
Dubois is Really Good
In terms of a player’s shot rates, look at where Dubois ends up on this chart.
PLD in the spot we all knew he'd land. pic.twitter.com/cNqplJSAcT
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) December 17, 2017
That is one of the best rates in the entire league. When his line is on the ice, good things happen for the Blue Jackets. They get the majority of attempts for and do a great job of limiting their opponent’s attempts. Perhaps GM Jarmo Kekalainen knew something many others didn’t when he made Dubois the third-overall pick in the 2016 draft.
The biggest thing in watching Dubois is how calm and collected he is. He doesn’t get too high on himself when things go well. If he makes a mistake on a shift, he comes back out next time and plays as though the mistake didn’t affect him. For someone just 19 years old, this is an impressive trait to have. He has leadership written all over him.
The Blue Jackets will need Dubois to continue producing for them with the injuries that linger. Dubinsky is out at least a few more weeks while recovering from a broken orbital bone. Wennberg is out longer than day-to-day. Center ice is extremely thin. Dubois’ emergence is one of the best and most surprising stories of this young NHL season. Who saw this coming so soon?
Expect Him to Get More Chances
At this point, it’s reasonable to expect Dubois to get more chances in different parts of the game given his play. He gets power play time. He plays as their number-one center. If Tortorella can send Dubois out on a shootout because of a gut feeling, what else will we see?
Dubois is on pace for around 17-18 goals this season. His emergence could change the way the Blue Jackets approach the deadline. If Wennberg and Dubinsky come back and play the way they can, there’s your three centers. The question the Blue Jackets must answer is can Dubois play as their top center this season. Does the team need to get another center or can they get a top-six winger?
That said, Dubois will get every chance to show what he can do. His performance could go a long way in determining trade deadline plans. Let’s see where this team is at on Feb 1. By then, we’ll have a better idea of what the team will try to do.
For now, Dubois continues to shine. He’s a big reason the Blue Jackets sit just a single point out of first place in the division. That’s as good as it gets for a team crushed by injuries.