The Winnipeg Jets have been smart to give the youngest player on their roster a wide breadth of experience on different lines through his few months with the club.
Dubois Has Been Used Throughout the Lineup
That’s Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has played just about everywhere, man, since being acquired in blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in January.
Since then, the 22-year-old acquired in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic has been deployed in many different roles throughout the lineup.
To ease him in after having to quarantine for two weeks and not being able to practice, Dubois made his Jets’ debut on Feb. 9 on a line with Trevor Lewis and Kyle Connor. In Dubois’ second game, Blake Wheeler took Lewis’ spot.
After missing the next four games with an injury, the Jets deployed him on the left wing with Mark Scheifele and Wheeler, not wanting to rush him back to centre right away.
Dubois had a two-goal, three-point night in his first game on the new line (Feb. 21 against the Canucks), with both of his goals — including the overtime game-winner— assisted by Wheeler. He followed up that performance with two more points in a 6-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
But then Dubois was held off the scoresheet for three straight games, and prior to the March 4 game against the Canadiens, Maurice moved Dubois back to centre, between between Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers.
In 14 games on that line, Dubois had two goals and six assists — including another overtime game-winner in the March 4 game — but the line wasn’t particularly strong defensively.
Dubois Currently Learning from the Veterans
For the four games prior to the Jets’ Thursday contest in Montreal, Dubois played centre on a line with two much more experienced players in Paul Stastny and Wheeler.
The two thirty-somethings have combined for nearly 2,000 NHL games. They provide both the skill Dubois needs to produce some offence now, but also the lessons he’ll need if he wants to carve out a long and successful NHL career.
Stastny is an intelligent and consistent player and Wheeler — while he’s near the very-bottom of the league when it comes to five-on-five play this season — is still a terrific playmaker who sets his line mates up with great chances.
“You’re seeing a better fit now with Wheeler and Stastny than you were with Connor and Ehlers simply due to styles,” the Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck wrote recently. “Put another way, Wheeler and Stastny are better suited to the power game that Dubois possesses.” (From ‘With less on his shoulders, Jets’ Dubois able to develop game,’ Winnipeg Sun, April 6, 2021.)
“(Wheeler) is a great passer. He makes it easy out there sometimes… He sees guys so well I just have to get in that open space and it’s more often than not on my blade,” Dubois said after he scored two goals in a 4-3 win against the Ottawa Senators Monday night.
“(Stastny), too, just makes it really easy for me out there, whether it’s in the D-zone or the O-zone,” he continued. “Like I said before, they’re two great people, two great guys, so always talking to me and telling me where they want me out there and stuff like that.”
Copp Jumps to Dubois’ Line in Wheeler’s Stead
The line, unfortunately, has been broken up for now due to Blake Wheeler’s injury. He didn’t make the road trip after taking a Brady Tkachuk elbow to the head on Monday and is out indefinitely.
Andrew Copp — who has set career highs in goals and points already this season — moved up to the second line for Thursday’s matchup against the Canadiens, giving Dubois yet another new line mate to play with.
That line lasted for two periods before Maurice, seeing his team with only 15 shots after 40 minutes, put Ehlers on the right wing to try and spark thing.
Dubois’ night was quiet as he finished with no points or shots, but the Jets came away with a 4-2 win.
Jets Are Happy With Dubois’ Game So Far
The Jets don’t need Dubois to score a hat trick every night. Their depth up front gives them the luxury to be patient with him and not pressure him to be “the guy” who leads the offensive charge every night like the Blue Jackets did.
While eight goals and eight assists in 25 games aren’t gaudy numbers — and he’s had some quiet games since his arrival in Winnipeg — Dubois is a strong player who is contributing.
Given all he has gone through this season — the quarantine period that kept him in his hotel room and away from his teammates, the injury, and having to learn an entirely new set of systems — Dubois has done well even though he’s not lighting opponents on fire every night. He’s certainly shown flashes of what he’s capable of.
He’s already learned something about most of his teammates — the entire top six in addition to Copp and Lewis — by virtue of playing with all of them at some point already.
That familiarity with Jets’ fellow top guns — combined with the benefits he’ll glean from the vets — will allow him develop into the elite two-way centre and a dominant force.
…We’re really, really happy with Pierre,” head coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday. “It’s good for him to score goals. I know points are important, but he’s a really good young centre-iceman that’s going to get better.”
“I like him with Blake a lot. I think that’s helped his game… I’m good with him,” Maurice continued. “This is been a good thing for our team, we’re winning hockey games. He’s helped us do that. I guess numbers are important — they tell you more empirically that a guy’s having an impact in a game. But there’s so much growth here for this young man and he’s going to be a good player for the Jets for a long time. I’m good with where he’s at.”
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.