Center Pierre-Luc Dubois is back in Columbus with a full season of playing center under his belt, a little more muscle, and a big goal to make the Blue Jackets this fall.
"At this point last year, he was three days removed from being a third overall draft pick," development coach Chris Clark said. "This year he's more ready. He's been doing everything he can. He's wants to make the best impression, and he's 100 percent a pro guy right now. He's flipped his mindset to 'I'm done with Junior, I'm going to play in the NHL this year.'"
Dubois played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last season and split his time between two teams. He started of the year with Cape Breton and had six goals and 12 assists in 20 games before being traded to Blainville-Boisbriand, a group that was in playoff contention with a coach that teaches his team an NHL style of play.
"We played a different type of game (in Blainville-Boisbriand)" Dubois said. "It was a little more of a defensive (style). That's how we won our games, by scores of 2-1. It was a more pro-style game. I learned a lot from that."
Video: Pierre-Luc Dubois talks about Development Camp
Throughout the year, Dubois watched a lot of tape, and took advantage of the slower pace of Junior hockey compared to the NHL to work on his positioning, developing good playing habits and becoming more comfortable playing in center ice.
In 28 games with the Armada, Dubois had 15 goals and 22 assists before putting up 22 points (9-13-22) in 19 playoff games.
"What's great about Dubois is being a third overall pick he's got all that third overall pick talent and skill," Clark said. "But he was playing grinding style, get in your face hockey (in Blainville-Boisbriand). That's great because he'll be so versatile in the NHL. He can play wherever there's a spot for him."
When the season ended, Dubois relished the opportunity to focus on being NHL-ready. He's been training in Columbus for three weeks prior to Development Camp and when he returns home in July, the 19-year-old is excited to dedicate his time to preparing himself by getting stronger and faster before Training Camp begins in September.
And the opportunity to make the Jackets' roster has started to loom a bit larger. The Jackets lost center William Karlsson to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. Is that a spot Dubois sees as his? Not exactly. He sees the challenge to be making a spot for himself regardless.
"To make the NHL you have to have a good camp and show the entire staff that you're ready to play," Dubois said. "It's the same thing for everybody. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to have a good camp. I don't see myself having a spot over somebody else that's (already) mine, I have to take it."
And if Dubois is ready, the Blue Jackets will be ready to welcome him to the big club. Players like Boone Jenner, Lukas Sedlak and Markus Nutivaara have shown through their rookie seasons that regardless of where a player may be on the depth chart going into the start of a season, when they are ready, the Jackets make room on the roster.
"He's feeling pretty good, and he should," Clark said. "He's a great player. It's up to him from what he does from now until the season starts whether he's ready."