NHL

Jackets prospect Dubois hopes WJC proves jumpstart to sluggish season

Highly rated prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois hasn't dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since his return from the Columbus Blue Jackets camp, but he has a chance to make up for it at the world junior championship.

The return to junior from an NHL camp is often a difficult transition

Pierre-Luc Dubois dons a Columbus jersey after being selected third overall in the NHL draft in June. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Highly rated prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois hasn't dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since his return from the Columbus Blue Jackets camp, but he has a chance to make up for it at the world junior championship.

The big centre, who will reportedly be traded by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on Dec. 18, has a decent but hardly overwhelming six goals and 18 points in 20 QMJHL games this season, well off-pace from the 42 goals and 99 points he put up in 62 games last season.

That performance prompted the Blue Jackets to skip over higher-ranked Jesse Puljujarvi and take Dubois third overall in the NHL draft in June.

"It's never easy to come back to junior from the NHL," Canadian junior coach Dominique Ducharme said of Dubois. "There's always a period to adapt and to bring your mind back to it.

"He wanted to be playing in the NHL and that's quite normal, right? So there are a lot of mental things to go through when you face that. I saw that with (Jonathan) Drouin when he came back to Halifax (from the Tampa Bay Lightning). It took him a month, or a month and half to get going, but once he did he was pretty dominant. I can see the same thing probably happening with Pierre-Luc when he came back."

There are no star attractions, like Connor McDavid in 2015 or Mitch Marner last year, on the Canadian team that will play in the world junior event Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Toronto and Montreal. Dubois and Dylan Strome, drafted third overall in 2015 by the Arizona Coyotes, are closest to star status.

Mentally ready

Strome is among five returning players from the Canadian team that lost in the quarter-finals of last year's world juniors in Finland. Dubois didn't make that team.

"Last year, on the ice, I was ready but I was nervous," said Dubois, 18. "It was my first camp with older guys.

"This year I went to the summer (development) camp. I met everybody. I think this year I'm mentally ready. I know what to expect. When I go on the ice, I try to have fun. Last year, I just tried to not to make mistakes."

He made it to the final day of the Blue Jackets camp before being sent back to junior.

"Nobody likes to get cut, but it's a process," said Dubois. "I don't think coming back at 18 is a bad thing.

"It's going to help my career in the long term. I'm concentrating on what I can do to help the team win and what I can do to get better. I'll try again next year. They said go 'back to junior. Work on everything.' They want me to play centre and I only started playing centre halfway through last season. They said 'get lots of minutes that you wouldn't get in Columbus."'

A highlight this season was being captain of the QMJHL team that swept a two-game series with the Russian juniors.

Another who has had a taste of the NHL is Thomas Chabot. The Saint John Sea Dogs rearguard got a good look in Ottawa's training camp and played one regular-season game for the Senators.

"It's a lot different in the NHL," said Chabot, 19. "I learned a lot there.

"I usually play against 19- or 20-year-olds in junior and to go up to the NHL and play against older guys was a good challenge. The speed of the game is so much different. In junior, sometimes you wait for the puck and it's not always coming but in the NHL, as soon as you're open the puck's coming to you. It's hard to come back but I've got it pretty easy in Saint John. Half of our team were in NHL camps."

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