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Pierre-Luc Dubois scores un, deux, trois, passing Nash in rookie goals

Jackets' rookie center continues memorable season with first NHL hat trick, franchise record.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

CALGARY, Alta. - After his postgame media huddle Thursday at Scotiabank Saddledome, Pierre-Luc Dubois packed up his gear.

He slung his Blue Jackets bag over his shoulder, carried it out of the locker room and sent a reminder, by doing so, that he's a hard-working rookie. It's easy to forget that sometimes, the way the 19-year old center has played on the ice and handled that success off it - in his first NHL season.

"We've seen it kind of progress over the year, into the player he is now, and it's pretty special," said 20-year old defenseman Zach Werenski, who stood in Dubois' skates last season, as a standout rookie who didn't play like most guys his age. "Obviously, when he was drafted it kind of took some people by surprise, but management knew what they were doing and he's really come into his own. It's awesome for our team."

Dubois was drafted third overall in 2016, ahead of Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi, who went fourth to the Edmonton Oilers.

That decision by Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, has paid off immeasurably this season and took center stage again Thursday, when Dubois' first career NHL hat trick led the way in a 5-1 victory against the Calgary Flames.

"When you score a hat trick, it's fun, but I didn't really think about it," said Dubois, who re-entered the locker room to pose with the three pucks he'd shot into the net, all bearing the Flames logo. "Maybe if you play 50 years, you'll get one, or something like that, but if you just play and one night you're on fire, one night everything's going in, maybe then you'll get one - but it's not something that I really think about. I just want to win and help the team play well."

Video: Dubois on breaking the rookie scoring record

He's done each of those things a lot season, surprising teammates and coaches alike with how much responsibility he's carried on his bulky shoulders.

When the Blue Jackets needed somebody to center their top line, it was Dubois who rose to the occasion - forming productive combinations with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson to start out and now Panarin and Cam Atkinson.

Whenever they've needed a hard-nosed, athletic center to match up against stars from other teams, it's been Dubois who was asked to do it and Dubois who handled it. He's still a rookie, yes, but a very unique one - whose play is impressive, already, and whose future is blindingly bright.

"It's a rookie that we were worried about giving him too much, and he accepted everything - and he wants more," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "For now, and for the future, that's a huge position on a team that's trying to build, right up the middle with that type of size. He's just doing everything … not just scoring, but just all the dirty work and understanding the low play of coverage and just his strength. He's played very well."

He's starting to etch his name in Blue Jackets history, too.

A week ago, Dubois felt like there might not be enough games left to truly make a run at the leading rookie scorers in franchise history - not that he cared all that much. After notching the hat trick, though, that situation has changed.

Dubois has 18 goals now, a new franchise record for rookies, after surpassing Rick Nash to get to that perch.

Columbus selected Nash with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, and he set the mark for rookie goals with 17 in 2002-03, the very next season. It lasted 15 seasons, until another big, strong teenage forward broke it.

That would be Dubois, who'd already passed Nash's rookie point total of 39 on Tuesday in Edmonton, and now has 44 points - three from tying teammate Zach Werenski's franchise record of 47 last season.

"It's fun for us to see," Werenski said. "He deserves it. He's a great kid off the ice and we love having him around. I hope he catches me. You want to see your teammates succeed, so hopefully he catches me."

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