Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season from a numerical standpoint, starting with the highest jersey number and counting down to the lowest. Today, BlueJackets.com examines Pierre-Luc Dubois' season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2017-18 campaign.
Birthdate: June 24, 1998
Height/Weight: 6-3, 207
Nickname: "P-L", "PLD"
What started out a little rocky turned into a season of smooth sailing for Pierre-Luc Dubois, who earned the Blue Jackets' top center role in his first NHL season.
Dubois, selected third overall by Columbus in the 2016 NHL Draft, rewarded general manager Jarmo Kekalainen for making that pick and stunning the hockey world by passing on higher-ranked Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi.
After spending the season following his draft back in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dubois earned a spot with Columbus to start last season. It took about a month, and a 1-on-1 chat with coach John Tortorella, but the 6-foot-3, 207-pound teenager eventually found his niche.
ENTER TO WIN GAME-USED PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS GEAR
Given the opportunity to play center again, after starting out on the wing, Dubois excelled. He quickly developed some chemistry centering a line with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson as his wingers, before finishing the season playing with Panarin and Cam Atkinson.
Regardless of his linemates, Dubois' role and responsibilities didn't change. He used his combination of size, speed and skill to create scoring opportunities, yet was also used defensively to check some of the NHL's most elite centers - including Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
Dubois handled those assignments impressively, gaining momentum as the season progressed. By the time it was over, he'd set franchise records for goals, points and games played by a rookie in a single season and also netted the first hat trick of his NHL career.
In the playoffs, Dubois had four points (two goals, two assists) and played all six games against the Washington Capitals, and then played for Canada in the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship in Denmark.
Here's a look at what Dubois accomplished in 2017-18 by the numbers:
Dubois was creeping up on Rick Nash's franchise record of 17 goals by a rookie in 2002-03 when he took the ice Mar. 29 in Calgary. He had 15 goals to start the game but had 18 after the Jackets' 5-1 victory at Scotiabank Saddledome. He also posed in the locker room afterward holding the pucks from all three goals in his first NHL hat trick, after passing Nash to set a new franchise mark for goals by a rookie.
The hat trick in Calgary was part of another milestone moment for Dubois, who set a season and career high with points in five straight games Mar. 27 to April 5. He tallied nine points during the streak on five goals and four assists, including three multi-point games.
Dubois also set a franchise high in rookie points, finishing with 48 to surpass Zach Werenski's 47 in 2016-17, which had broken Nash's previous franchise record of 39 points in 2002-03. Dubois' two assists against the Penguins on April 5 at Nationwide Arena pushed him past Werenski, helping the Blue Jackets clinch a playoff spot in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
The most productive month for Dubois, offensively, was March. He had 14 points in 16 games, which tied a Blue Jackets rookie record for points in a single-month. The mark was set by Nikolai Zherdev in March 2004. Dubois' point total in March was also second among all NHL rookies for that month of the season, trailing only Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller, who had 19 points.
The biggest area of improvement for Dubois heading into next season will be in the face-off circle, where we won 43.8 percent (461) of the 1,052 draws he took. Face-offs aren't everything, but the ability to win key draws consistently is something that will prompt coaches to send certain guys over the boards more often. Most rookies tend to struggle most with face-offs during their first trip through the NHL, so Dubois' win percentage could jump in the next couple seasons.
Through his first 12 games, all in October, Dubois had one point. He got that point in the first game of the season, too, on his first career NHL goal scored Oct. 6 against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena. The next five months were a different story. After moving to center, he posted 47 points in the final 70 games of the regular season on 19 goals and 28 assists, finishing sixth among all rookies in that timeframe.