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

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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