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Dubois has sights set on NHL this fall

by Mike G. Morreale / Columbus Blue Jackets

TORONTO -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois was the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft but he believes he could end up being the No. 1 rookie in the League this season.

Dubois, who signed a three-year contract on July 1, was the highest drafted player participating at the NHL Players' Association Rookie Showcase on Monday. He said winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year wouldn't surprise him.

"We'll see, but, I mean, if I'm in Columbus I might have a shot for that," the 18-year-old said. "It's a different level, but if I am in there I think I have a good shot at it. When you are in [the NHL], you don't really think about it. You just want to play and help your team win. If you win an award like that, it is an honor."

Dubois who played for Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was to some a surprise pick ahead of Edmonton Oilers forward prospect Jesse Puljujarvi. Dubois (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, the first QMJHL player to be so since Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (Rimouski) in 2005. Puljujarvi was No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, behind No. 1 pick Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) and No. 2 Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets).

Dubois proved versatile enough to play any position but prefers center, where he played for the first time for Cape Breton in December 2015. He ended up winning 50.4 percent of the 843 faceoffs he took, second-most on the team.

"I like playing the wing, but I think I'm more involved at center," Dubois said "You are helping the defensemen on the breakouts and you are helping your wingers out too. I feel I play more of a 200-foot game when I am in the middle and I contribute more in that sense."

Before he can win the Calder Trophy, Dubois knows the first step is making the Blue Jackets out of training camp. He will represent Columbus in the eight-team Traverse City prospects tournament to be held in Michigan from Sept. 16-21. Columbus is the defending champion.

"When I talk about the draft I still get goosebumps, so I can't imagine playing in Traverse City," he said. "That's where everybody starts their rookie tournament, so it is going to be very exciting.

"The draft went by so fast, I was with my family and it was my birthday (on June 24), so it was so amazing. Now I'm moving on to new things and I'm trying to make the team this year."

Dubois said he understands how the comparisons between he and Puljujarvi will be inevitable during the NHL season.

"I always get the same question about [the comparisons] but I don't really compare myself to anybody else," Dubois said. "I met him a couple of times and he's a really good guy and a good player. But there's only one Jesse Puljujarvi, and there's only one Pierre-Luc Dubois."

Dubois was fifth in the QMJHL last season with 42 goals and third with 99 points in 64 games.

"I know Columbus is going to make the decision, but I am trying to force them into keeping me," Dubois said. "That is all I can do. I am training in Columbus and I'll be training there until rookie camp so all I can do is get there in shape and we'll see what happens."

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