The old saying goes that big players have to make big plays in big games.
For the Blue Jackets, Pierre-Luc Dubois is about as big as they come. The 22-year-old center is listed at 6-3, 218 pounds, but it's hard not to believe he's not bigger than that, as his body appears chiseled out of rock and he's as tough to move off the puck as any player in the NHL.
"He's just a big body," fellow CBJ standout Seth Jones said. "He's got a big frame. He's as strong as an ox down low in the corners. His puck protection is off the charts. He's a handful for any defenseman, no matter how big you are or how quick you are. He always finds a way to muscle you off, hold you off with one arm and make a play."
Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm3: Dubois records hat trick, OT winner
The NHL world saw that firsthand during the Blue Jackets' Stanley Cup playoff run, where the big man made big plays throughout. Dubois led Columbus with 10 points in 10 postseason games, tallying four goals and six assists while centering the team's top line.
Most impressive was an effort that turned heads across the league in Game 3 of the qualifier vs. Toronto. Dubois finished with a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in overtime, as the Blue Jackets rallied from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 win that proved crucial in the series win over the Maple Leafs.
While Dubois has somehow always felt like an under-the-radar player -- he was the surprise third overall pick when the Blue Jackets took him in the 2016 draft, and he was chosen after the much more hyped Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine -- his postseason performance continued to show NHL types who are paying attention that he can be one of the hardest players in the game to contain.
"With Luc, if he wants to be a difference maker, a game changer, one of the best players in the league, he has all the capabilities, all the tools," Cam Atkinson said.
The frustration for head coach John Tortorella is just getting Dubois to use them consistently. While Dubois finished the regular season with a team-best 49 points thanks to 18 goals and 31 assists, and he was on pace to have been a 20-goal scorer for the third time in as many NHL seasons, Dubois went through a cold spell in the winter months for the second year in a row with just a single goal in the team's last 17 regular-season games.
Tortorella sees a player who can be a nightmare to defend on a nightly basis, but he also sees someone who is still coming along to get there.
"I thought he played very well," Tortorella said of Dubois after the postseason concluded. "I still think there's inconsistencies as far as things we have to continue to teach and him to understand, but I thought he played very well. I thought he wanted the puck. I thought he was strong with the puck. He was our most consistent forward.
"But there's still a lot of things he needs to learn. What is he, (22)? He's still a very young man and there are some things he has to learn to keep on growing. He has a chance to be one of the top players in the league if he just keeps going about his business the proper way."
The good news is that Dubois, who hasn't missed a game in his CBJ career and has 65 goals and 158 points in 234 NHL games, wants to get to that point and sees being one of the top centers in the league as his goal.
"I am working hard to accomplish that," he said. "I think I still have a lot to learn and a lot things I can get better at, but there's no doubt in my mind I can become that. It's just putting in the hours, putting in the work. To be honest, I don't think I'm very far from that."