Dubois to remain centre of attention


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Pierre-Luc Dubois was, is and will be a centre in the NHL.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/04/2021 (709 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Pierre-Luc Dubois was, is and will be a centre in the NHL.

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice made the point infinitely clear Tuesday following a Jets practice that featured the 22-year-old forward skating between wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Paul Stastny.

Dubois might have started on the wall when he first arrived from Columbus, and has played there intermittently since the blockbuster trade that sent Patrik Laine to the Blue Jackets nearly three months ago. However, he’s a middle man now — and moving forward — for the North Division squad.

“I see him as a centre. While I don’t know that we’re in development phase, we need him to continue to get experience at centre ice. I see that as his best position,” said the Jets bench boss, on a Zoom call with reporters.

Dubois, selected third overall — right behind Laine — at the 2016 NHL Draft, has fired eight goals and supplied 11 assists in 30 games since the swap of forwards. He’s been solid in about dozen contests, and passable to forgettable in most others.

But Maurice had some strong words for the detractors of the former Quebec junior star, who had 27 goals and 61 points two seasons ago in Columbus.

“Don’t (criticize) too loudly, it’s gonna come back to haunt you. Just patience… Pierre-Luc’s a really strong player,” he said. “He’s had a highly unusual year and there’s still an awful lot of good things. When I go through his game, there’s not a lot of positioning issues, so he’s got an intelligence, and that you cannot teach a player.

“He’s going to get bigger, stronger, faster, define his game. He’s going to become a dominant power forward as a centreman in this league. If you bought a sweater with his name on the back, hang onto it. It’s gonna be good.”

Benn ready to go

Jordie Benn wants a piece of the action.

The veteran defenceman was acquired by the Jets from the Canucks at the trade deadline eight days ago, with a sixth-round pick in this summer’s draft heading to Vancouver.

After a quarantine period, he skated on his own in Winnipeg while the team was in the final stages of an eastern road trip. He finally met up with his new teammates at practice Tuesday at the downtown rink Tuesday, skating on the extra defensive pairing with Ville Heinola.

Benn, 33, provides additional size and experience to the Winnipeg lineup, although it’s not clear when his Jets debut will occur. The Jets host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

“I’m ready to go. I’ve been skating hard. We haven’t had too much of a conversation yet (on when he might play), just letting myself get back into it,” said Benn, who I’m sure there will be a conversation (Wednesday) or the next day on what’s gonna happen for Thursday.”

The Victoria product has played parts of 10 NHL seasons and 548 games split between the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Canucks.

Benn faced the Jets many times and has a tremendous amount of respect for the group to which he now belongs.

“I’ve played against them all year and now that I’m in the dressing room with them, they’ve got a good squad. I’m happy to be part of it now,” he said. “It’s gonna be an exciting last couple of games and hopefully playoffs are exciting as well. All through the four lines and our (defence) and the goalies are unbelievable. It’s nice to be on their side.”

His old team, Vancouver, defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime Sunday on the strength of captain Bo Horvat’s winning tally.

Benn said he watched the resumption of the Canucks season with interest, and was heartened to see his ex-teammates doing well, on and off the ice, after a serious COVID-19 outbreak.

“I can’t imagine being that sick and having to jump right back into things. The guys said what they needed to say and they took it to Toronto that night,” he said.”It was a good game to watch. The boys played well.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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