After months of speculation, mock drafts and predictions, the debate was put to rest in Buffalo at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was the first CHL player off the board, taking some by surprise when he leapfrogged Finnish winger Jesse Puljujarvi to be selected third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dubois, who turned 18 on draft day, had been in the discussion of potentially being crowned the first CHL player to hear his name called, being mentioned alongside the London Knights duo of Olli Juolevi (fifth overall, Vancouver) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall, Calgary) along with Mississauga Steelheads winger Alexander Nylander (eighth overall, Buffalo) and Windsor Spitfires rearguard Mikhail Sergachev (ninth overall, Montreal).
The versatile 6’3″ forward from Ste. Agathe-des-Mont, Quebec caught the eye of Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting staff though, prompting them to step up and select him with the third overall pick.
“It’s a surprise, but I’m really happy,” said Dubois following the selection. “I was just thinking about the sacrifices my parents made throughout my entire career until now,” he continued. “My mom doesn’t know a lot about hockey, but she goes to the games. She doesn’t even like hockey, but she comes to see me play. It’s all them really right now.”
Dubois was one of 14 QMJHL players selected in the 2016 NHL Draft and becomes the fourth Cape Breton Screaming Eagle to be selected in the first round, joining Marc-Andre Fleury (first overall, 2003), James Sheppard (ninth overall, 2006) and Evgeny Svechnikov (19th overall, 2005).
He joins good company in Nathan MacKinnon (first overall, Colorado 2013), Jonathan Drouin (third overall, Tampa Bay 2013) and Jonathan Huberdeau (third overall, Florida 2011) as the fourth QMJHL player in the past 10 years to crack the top three at the NHL Draft.
The Blue Jackets had a tough decision to make with the pick, but Kekalainen was very clear that his team had come to the conclusion that Dubois was the right fit in Columbus.
Dubois’ 42 goals, 57 assists and 99 points in 62 games paired with a standout performance at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver and a strong playoff showing cemented the selection in the minds of Blue Jackets brass.
“We did a lot of homework on (Dubois),” he told NHL.com. “Very seldom [do] you get a player where everything checks, where you are all excited about him on the ice, but then you go through the testing, through the interviews, and everything screamed that, yes, this is our guy.”
Val-d’Or Foreurs winger Julien Gauthier was the other QMJHL player selected in the first round, going 21st overall to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The QMJHL had three players selected in Saturday’s third round including CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game MVP Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville Tigres) selected 36th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers, QMJHL Defenceman of the Year Samuel Girard (Shawinigan Cataractes) chosen 47th overall by the Nashville Predators and big Sherbrooke Phoenix goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick chosen 59th overall by the St. Louis Blues.
As for the forerunner Dubois, the Blue Jackets wasted little time putting pen to paper, inking the star forward to an entry-level NHL contract on July 2nd.
Boasting a complete game and the versatility to play all three forward positions, it may not be long before Dubois is a big name in Columbus.
QMJHL Players Selected in the 2016 NHL Draft:
(Click on a player to watch post-draft interview)
First Round (2 QMJHL Players):
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) – Columbus Blue Jackets
21. Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or Foreurs) – Carolina Hurricanes
Second Round (3 QMJHL Players):
36. Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville Tigres) – Philadelphia Flyers
47. Samuel Girard (Shawinigan Cataractes) – Nashville Predators
59. Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) – St. Louis Blues
Third Round (4 QMJHL Players):
65. Vitalii Abramov (Gatineau Olympiques) – Columbus Blue Jackets
78. Frederic Allard (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) – Nashville Predators
79. Luke Green (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Winnipeg Jets
80. Brandon Gignac (Shawinigan Cataractes) – New Jersey Devils
Fourth Round (2 QMJHL Players):
113. Nathan Noel (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Chicago Blackhawks
115. Alex Dostie (Gatineau Olympiques) – Anaheim Ducks
Fifth Round (1 QMJHL Player):
150. Manuel Wiederer (Moncton Wildcats) – San Jose Sharks
Sixth Round (1 QMJHL Player):
171. Gabriel Fontaine (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) – New York Rangers
Seventh Round (1 QMJHL Player):
206. Otto Somppi (Halifax Mooseheads) – Tampa Bay Lightning
For full results from the 2016 NHL Draft visit www.nhl.com.