Dubois: ‘I think in the long run, I can be a first-line center in the NHL’


SAN JOSE — Pierre-Luc Dubois is still getting used to it, still learning the intricacies of the position.

But if it were up to him, he’d keep playing center.

“I like playing center,” the top prospect said today during a visit to the Stanley Cup Final. “I think in the long run, I can be a first-line center in the NHL.”

That’s worth mentioning, because Dubois could be drafted fourth or fifth overall later this month. Those are the spots currently held by Edmonton and Vancouver, respectively.

This past season, Dubois had 99 points in 62 games for QMJHL Cape Breton. At Christmas, he moved from wing to center when his Russian linemates, Evgeny Svechnikov and Maxim Lazarev, left for the World Juniors.

“And when they came back I was on a different line with two other wingers,” he said. “I played good, so the coaches kept me there.”

Why does he think he’s a good fit in the middle?

“I think my maturity on the ice, my attention to details,” he said. “I think center’s a big position for responsibilities. You have a lot of responsibilities, defensively and offensively. I want to be hard to play against. I like scoring goals, but I like winning the games. Faceoffs. D-zone battles. Stuff like that is key to winning games.”

It doesn’t hurt that Dubois is a big kid — 6-foot-2, around 200 pounds — and he’s not even 18 yet. His birthday is June 24, the day he’ll hear his name called in Buffalo.

But which team will call it?

The Oilers, of course, couldn’t be more set at first-line center; they got Connor McDavid last year. What they need are NHL-ready defensemen, which is why there’s “a real legitimate chance” they’ll end up trading their pick to a team that covets Dubois or winger Matthew Tkachuk or whoever.

Tkachuk was also in San Jose today. He’s read all the speculation.

“Anything could happen on draft day,” he said. “There’s a lot of trades. Especially this year, there’s a lot of rumors and all that.”

If Dubois is still available with the fifth selection, the Canucks may see him as a potential successor to Henrik Sedin. And hey, if it turns out he’s better on the wing, Daniel Sedin will need a successor, too.

Related: Dubois is top-ranked North American skater

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.