Pierre-Luc Dubois is getting used to the spotlight.
After being drafted third overall in 2016, the 19-year-old is entering his second year in the Blue Jackets organization as part of the team's Traverse City squad and is ready to draw some attention.
"I think it's important to show you can play here," Dubois said. "There's a lot of AHL guys here. It's important, especially for guys like me who didn't play in the AHL or the NHL (last year), to prove that I can compete with these guys. I can play well, I can score goals, I can win battles, I can win face-offs. It's important to prove to management before you get to camp that 'ok, he's adapted well."
Participating in his second Traverse City tournament, while it's an admittedly small sample size, Dubois has been a goal per game player (2-0-2), has six penalty minutes, a plus-3 rating, and feels more comfortable with what he's doing on the ice.
"I took the passenger seat a little too much last year because I wanted to learn," Dubois said. "This year I want to be in the driver's seat. I want to lead the team, I want to help the guys. I think I'm playing a lot more like myself than last year, I want to keep improving on that."
What does Dubois show in his play? In Traverse, he's used his 6-foot-2, 215 lbs. frame to hold his ground on the ice while capitalizing on his skill with linemates Calvin Thurkauf and fellow QMJHL player, Vitaly Abramov.
In Friday's game against Dallas, the three combined for six of the Jackets' seven goals. And Dubois and Abramov have quickly found a chemistry that allows them to anticipate where to put the puck for one another. It's fun to watch.
Video: Pierre-Luc Dubois looks forward to Traverse City
And it happens even as it's obvious opponents are trying to shut down Dubois' powerful top line.
"(Dubois) and (Abramov) are the big names on our team right now," Thurkauf said. "Opponents are trying to get them off their game physically. But I think our line has responded really well. We just started to use our body too."
That's where Dubois' size has amplified his talent. He's not be one to shy away from a push or a shove, and he's established he's not going to get rattled by a team trying to play him physically. Dubois knows teams may be looking to stop him, but he sticks to his game all the same.
"It's fun, it's a challenge (to know teams want to stop you)," Dubois said. "I wouldn't say I need the spotlight to play well but it gives you extra motivation and something to look forward to every shift. You're going to have guys coming at you, guys want to hit you, be physical with you. I like when the game gets a little more physical, it's easier to get into it. It's really fun."
That's what the Jackets want the center to do: have fun. He doesn't need to focus on the business of the game, just his play. Without the schedule demands of his NHL draft year, Dubois has done exactly that. He's had more uninterrupted time to train this off-season and says he's exactly where he wants to be as camp approaches.
And that's only good news.
"The good thing about (Dubois) is that he has the size and the ability to play in any situation," development coach Chris Clark said. "He doesn't 'need' to be on the top line, he doesn't 'need' to be just on the power play, he doesn't 'need' to be put in those positions. He can excel up and down our lineup. It shows what kind of player he is."