With the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft just two days away, we look at the top prospects available Friday night. Previously we took a look at Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi and Matthew Tkachuk; today we’ll look a little closer at Cape Breton Screaming Eagle Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Birthdate: June 24, 1998
Hometown: Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec
Weight: 205 lbs
After scoring 45 points in 56 games as a 16-year old in his first season in the QMJHL, Dubois turned up the offense this year as he continued to grow into his large frame. His 99 points in 2015-16 placed him third in the league, trailing only 20-year old over-agers in Conor Garland and Francis Perron (128 and 108 points respectively) and easily topped Red Wings’ first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov and the rest of the Screaming Eagles.
The Eagles would go down in the second round of the playoffs, but it wasn’t because of Dubois, as the big center put up 12 points in 12 games despite being suspended for the first round opener after a illegal check late in the season.
Dubois didn’t see any international competition this season, as he was cut from World Junior Championship roster along with fellow top prospect Jakob Chychrun. Perhaps he used it as motivation for the massive season he put up thereafter.
Cape Breton: 62 GP, 42 goals, 57 assists, 99 points, 112 PIM, +40 rating
Playoffs: 12 GP, 7 goals, 5 assists, 12 points, 14 PIM, +3 rating
Seen by many as the second best center available this year (behind Matthews), Dubois provides an excellent power option down the middle. With a combination of strength and skill, he’s an exceptional scoring threat with the puck on his stick as he heads into the zone, or along the boards down low. While his shot isn’t as highly regarded as Laine’s, he gets it off very quickly and with a lot of accuracy, especially in tight.
His skating, while not as developed as Matthews’, is actually a strength as he uses his long stride and powerful lower half to move quickly around the ice. He often catches defenders off-guard with his top gear, despite lacking an elite first few steps.
In the defensive end, Dubois isn’t afraid to use his size to remove attackers from the puck, laying thunderous checks that sometimes toe the line of legality. After the whistle, he’s often involved in scrums because of his style of play, though he has recognized his value to the team and learned to keep his cool. A smart player, he’s usually in a good position defensively, and should be able to handle that part of the game at the next level.
While his offense is driven by a power game similar to Stars’ forward Jamie Benn (who, incidentally, he models his play after), he lacks elite-level creativity and may be limited by it at the NHL level. If he can continue to grow into his frame, and improve his acceleration and defensive game he may eventually become a number 1 center in the NHL, but there is some doubt he’ll stay in the middle long-term. At the very worst, he becomes a big winger with some finishing ability and a lot of nastiness.
Projected Future Role
Top-six power center/front line power winger.
Dubois isn’t set to turn 18 until the day of the draft, and because of it isn’t eligible for the AHL until 2018-19. Even with his advanced size and strength, he’s almost a lock to head back to the Screaming Eagles for at least one more season. Look for him to challenge for the CHL scoring title before entering the NHL as a 19-year old in 2017-18.