Jets’ Dubois Off to a Much-Needed Strong Start

No Winnipeg Jet needed a strong start to the 2021-22 season more desperately than Pierre-Luc Dubois.

He’s gotten off to just that through his first five games.

Dubois Finally Performing as Advertised

Dubois is performing with confidence, elan, and enthusiasm — in short, he’s finally performing as advertised.

The 2016 third-overall pick’s play-driving abilities and nose for the net have been on full display through his first handful of contests this campaign. He’s already potted four goals and has added two helpers for six total points. Both his goal and point totals are second on the team to only Kyle Connor.

He has scored in four straight games and already has half the goals in just five games as he did last season in 41.

After a quiet season opener in Anaheim against the Ducks, Dubois has been one of the Jets’ most notable and consistent performers. This Dubois is the player the Jets thought they were getting when they traded Patrik Laine to the Columbus Blue Jackets for him in January — a high-octane powerforward with strength and skill in spades in all three zones.

Dubois Leaving Subpar Season Behind

With a fresh start and more familiarity with the Jets’ systems and personnel, Dubois’ play is a night-and-day difference from his play a season ago.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Winnipeg Jets
Pierre-Luc Dubois has looked like a totally new man this season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After coming over from the Blue Jackets, Dubois had some flashes of brilliance, but was more often than not invisible. He never seemed comfortable or confident, and while he recorded eight goals and 12 assists, all 20 of his points came in just 13 games. He was also a minus-6 and finished the season on a 24-game goalless streak.

Related: Winnipeg Jets 2020-21 Report Cards: Pierre-Luc Dubois

Dubois cast the blame for his subpar play squarely at his own feet after the Jets were swept in the second round by the Montreal Canadiens. In that series, he was given a huge opportunity to step up when Mark Scheifele was suspended four games for charging Jake Evans in Game 1, but whiffed hard.

Dubois Stepping Up in Scheifele and Wheeler’s Stead

Unlike when he had zero points in the Jets’ three playoff games sans Scheifele, Dubois is picking up the offensive slack while key offensive cogs are on the shelf.

Scheifele and captain Blake Wheeler are both in COVID-19 protocol; Scheifele is asymptomatic, so he’ll be able to play whenever he can produce two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Wheeler, on the other hand, is symptomatic and is in the middle of a 10-day quarantine period in Minneosta.

In the three games without Wheeler, Dubois has three goals and in both games with Scheifele, he put up multiple points. Both games were victories that have gotten the Jets back to .500 after a nightmarish three-game road trip to start the season.

Dubois Meshing Well with Linemates

The big centre has been flanked by Kyle Connor on the left and Evgeny Svechnikov on the right for the past two games. The line has looked dangerous nearly every time they step onto ice.

Svechnikov is found money, having signed a one-year contract for $750,000 after being cast off from the Detroit Red Wings’ organization. The Russian product earned an NHL job after a strong camp in which he came in on a PTO, and can make great things happen with the puck even under pressure. He has drawn assists on two of Dubois’ goals.

Evgeny Svechnikov Winnipeg Jets
Dubois has found chemistry with newcomer Evgeny Svechnikov. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Connor, who has blistering speed and the ability to score in many different ways, has also recorded an assist on two of Dubois’ goals. Dubois has yet to return the favour to the Jets’ best sniper, but given how electric they’ve been, it’s only a matter of time.

Dubois Drawing High Praise from Head Coach, Teammates

New defenseman Nate Schmidt — who always offers detailed insights when interacting with the media — said Dubois has “taken his game to another level” and offered up an assessment of his teammate that can only be described as glowing.

“The sky’s the limit for PIerre,” he said. “When you play against the guy, and you see how big of a player he is, how impactful he can be — when you see him as a player and you see what kind of game he can bring, there’s so many intagibles. He can play big, he can play skilled, he’s got a lot of speed.”

“I forget how young he is,” Schmidt said of the 23 year old. “He’s figuring out that this league is something that he can dominate with his body, without having to do it all with his skill… the more he continues to build off of that, the better off that he’s going to be and way better off we’re going to be.”

Nate Schmidt on PIerre-Luc Dubois

Head coach Paul Maurice said post-game Saturday said Dubois channeled the “frustration of last year to push himself this summer so that he can have nights like he’s having now.”

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice
Head coach Paul Maurice said Dubois worked hard in the offseason and channeled his frustration into self-imrpvement. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

He’s looking faster now, for sure…. he’s always been a good defensive player,” Maurice said. “His instincts low are very strong but he feels that pressure to put up numbers so what I’m hoping for is: his game’s good, he’s feeling good, his decisions, some of the confidence — just the basic plays, he’s not forcing anything out there. He’s going to get enough looks, power play as well. I hope he’s relaxed. He’s playing hard.

It’s early, but if this Dubois — a bona-fide number-two centre who can push Scheifele for the number-one spot — is the Dubois the Jets will be getting from now on, he was worth the wait.

The only problem — and it’s a good problem to have — is that if he performs at as high a level through 82 as he has through five, the Jets will owe the pending RFA a hefty sum this offseason.

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