This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…
There was the Big Three, and then there was the rest. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi were supposed to be the first three picks of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and there wasn’t really much debate about it.
Except Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t see it the same way. Going against the consensus, he used the Blue Jackets’ third overall pick on Pierre-Luc Dubois, allowing Puljujarvi to fall to the Oilers at No. 4.
It was the surprise of the draft, even if Kekalainen didn’t see it that way.
“That’s the guy we had our eye on all year long,” he said of Dubois, per the Jackets’ website. “Our scouts loved him. He’s everything we were looking for: he’s a smart, skilled, big player with a lot of character and leadership qualities.”
The Jackets also believe Dubois can play center in the NHL, and that was a position that needed to be addressed after they traded Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones. Though Kekalainen insisted the selection had “nothing to do with position” and everything to do with “character and hockey sense,” it was at least a bonus that Dubois showed well in the middle last season in junior.
“When he moved to center, he played his best hockey at center,” Kekalainen said. “We see him as a centerman, and we see a lot of potential there.”
Puljujarvi, meanwhile, may be a winger, but the Oilers were sure happy to get him. The big, talented Finn is most likely going to be in the NHL next season, and his selection made it “easier” for GM Peter Chiarelli to trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.
Given Puljujarvi’s potential, Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace was one of many observers who wondered if Kekalainen made the right decision on draft day:
Nothing against Dubois, who won the QMJHL’s Best Professional Prospect award. He is a versatile center who fills an area of need. He might be a terrific player in a year or two or three. The point is this: Every scout in the world rated three players at this draft as NHL-ready. The third was Jesse Puljujarvi. After him, there was a cliff.
Granted, it’s going to take a few years before we really know which player Kekalainen should’ve picked, but we want your vote now:
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