Jarmo Kekalainen knew. Back in 2016, the Columbus Blue Jackets were slated to pick third overall in the draft and to most outsiders, the selection was probably going to be a Finn like the GM himself. Auston Matthews was definitely going first to Toronto and Patrik Laine was almost certainly headed to Winnipeg at No. 2, leaving Jesse Puljujarvi for the Blue Jackets.
But Kekalainen and his crew weren’t hot on Puljujarvi and shocked many in attendance by taking center Pierre-Luc Dubois. Edmonton snapped up Puljujarvi with the fourth pick and since then, the youngster has been trying to find his way in the NHL, even spending this season back in Finland to get his mojo back. With every passing day, that choice by Kekalainen has looked more and more fantastic.
Dubois, now the franchise’s top center, was a big reason why Columbus took Game 1 of its qualifying round series against Toronto, nailing down the Leafs with a 2-0 victory. Eating up a steady diet of his draftmate Matthews, Dubois used his size, skating and tenacity to neutralize one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the league.
Coming into his draft year, Dubois wasn’t even a center – he had been playing on the wing.