The Winnipeg Jets at the Draft: Pierre-Luc Dubois

Pierre-Luc Dubois is a surefire top ten pick in this years entry draft. Were I a betting man, I’d bet on that top-ten team being the Winnipeg Jets.

Now, that is just my personal guess, since the draft lottery is still yet to take place as of this writing. And I know I just spent a lengthy article explaining the benefits of drafting Jakob Chychrun for the Jets, but the trouble with that is that every team in the lower part of the standings that needs defensive help (so, all of them) is going to look at Chychrun first. If the Oilers don’t win the lottery (heaven forbid that happen again), Chychrun is likely the first player they’ll look at.

Enter Dubois, who brings a mixture of size and skill any team would covet. At 6’3 and just over 200 pounds, Dubois already has NHL-ready size and could replace some of the size that seems to be leaving the Jets’ forward lineup, notably with the departure of Andrew Ladd.

Of course, size alone isn’t enough to get a player drafted, which is why Lawson Crouse dropped out of last year’s top ten. Dubois has much more to his game than size, however. He brings a wicked wrist-shot, which he used to devastating effect in the QMJHL this year, scoring 42 goals and a whopping 99 points for Cape Breton.

Just to be clear, the video above, which is an excellent showcase of Dubois’s best assets (namely his blistering shot and potent one-timer) is not a full season’s worth of highlights. Those are his best goals up to December of 2015.

A player with that kind of size who can shoot the puck the way Dubois does should be exciting to Jets fans, especially those who bemoan the team’s lack of a true sniper. While Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers both show signs of turning into stars, and the sky appears to be the limit for Kyle Connor, the Jets are still, at present, struggling to generate offense. In fact, the Jets have scored just 194 goals so far this year, which leaves them 25th out of the NHL’s 30 teams.

Recent injuries and trades have really exposed the Jets’ lack of scoring depth up front, and while there are a few players in the pipeline who promise to help with that, a player with Dubois’s mix of size and skill doesn’t exist in the Jets’ system right now. The skill is there for many, such as Connor and Nic Petan, but the size and toughness, a hallmark of the Jets last season when they were at their best, is lacking.

Dubois isn’t projected to be a franchise savior, but there’s no denying the Winnipeg Jets franchise could use what he brings. A big sniper would go a long way for the Jets.

Their Kind of Guy

Now, if we’re talking a pure best-player-available strategy at the draft, Dubois makes a pretty compelling case. His 99 points are a huge feat for a 17-year-old (and Dubois is only 17, as he won’t turn 18 until… hey, June 24! What a birthday present that’d be for the kid!) his size is imposing, and he had a strong showing at the CHL Top Prospects Game in January.

If I just stopped there, I could make a very convincing case for why Dubois deserves to be drafted over any of the other top players in what is sure to be a very tightly-contested draft from picks 4-10 and beyond. Yet, the more you look at it, the more Dubois seems to be a perfect fit for Winnipeg, assuming he is still around when they draft.

Dubois was cut from Canada’s ill-fated World Junior team this Christmas and, much like a certain Jets prospect, used the snub as motivation. He came back from the camp feeling ornery and ready to prove himself, and by all accounts boosted his draft stock immensely both in his regular season play and at the Top Prospects Game. His regular season rampage included this beatdown of the Halifax Mooseheads.

The game showed Dubois at his most offensively lethal, bulling his way to the dirty areas for a greasy first goal, then showing off his wicked shot, and some patience to boot, on the other two. Dubois responded to the cut like a champ, and that kind of heart is something the Jets may have lacked at times this season.

Dubois’s size is also perfectly in line with the kind of team the Jets want to build, and the kind they seemed to be building last season when they were at their best. Dubois isn’t overly physical according to scouts, but they all agree he’s not afraid to be nasty either, as evidenced by his 112 penalty minutes (which include a pair of fights).

This may be what tips the scales in Dubois’s favor if it comes down to a choice between, say, him and Alex Nylander (and what a choice that would be). Nylander is undoubtedly skilled, which seems to run in his family, but his slight frame (6’0, 176 lbs) may put Dubois ahead of him. After all, the Jets’ most skilled prospects all seem to be small. Connor is the tallest of the lot at 6’1, but he needs to pack some muscle onto his 175-pound frame.

Which brings us back to Dubois. Even if you ignore the fact that his numbers are better than Nylander’s (not knocking Nylander’s excellent 75-point season, but Dubois’s 42 goals really stand out over his 28) his size seems to give him a clear edge. This is the kind of player that personifies the kind of team the Jets want to build: big, skilled, and hard-working with a lot of heart and a willingness to play in the trenches.

I can’t say for certain whether Dubois will be in the NHL next year (smart money with a prospect taken outside the top-five is usually on no) nor can I say he’ll be an option when the Jets make their selection. What I can say is this: he’d fit right in here, and the Jets would be lucky to have him.