By NHL standards, this is nothing short of a blockbuster.
The trade between the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets features a pair of top three picks from the 2016 draft in Pierre-Luc Dubois (third overall) and Patrik Laine (second overall). Also headed to Columbus is Jack Roslovic (25th overall in 2015), who agreed to a two-year contract worth $1.9 million annually after the trade was made. Additionally, the Jets will receive the Blue Jackets’ third round pick in 2022.
For Dubois and Laine, this marks the end of their tumultuous tenures with the teams that drafted them. So, what can Jets fans expect from Dubois and Jackets fans from Laine and Roslovic? Let’s take a look.
The last time we saw Dubois on the ice for the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was a disengaged player who was weak on a puck battle and late getting back to the bench on a line change. This is not who Pierre-Luc Dubois is and that’s why this effort, or lack thereof, was so alarming. Dubois was clearly sending a message to his coach, John Tortorella and Torts sent one right back by benching him for the rest of the game.
In his fourth NHL season, Dubois has established himself as a top-line centre, twice flirting with 50 points while scoring 61 in the 2018-19 season.
Moreover, Dubois is a prototypical power forward who is more than capable of asserting himself physically and winning puck battles — despite what we saw Thursday night.
Dubois’ ability to win pucks back and protect it are also reflected in his offensive zone puck possession time. Dubois ranked 23rd in the NHL last season in OZ possession, averaging 31 seconds per-game, in line with Mitch Marner and Nikita Kucherov. With the puck on his stick, Dubois consistently looks to find teammates in dangerous scoring areas, ranking sixth in passes attempted into the slot and ninth in completions per-game last season.
Dubois also adds an element of speed in the Jets top-six. A dynamic skater, Dubois ranked 15th in the NHL in controlled zone entries (entering the offensive zone with possession of the puck) per-game at even-strength last season. Mark Scheifele ranked 13th and Nikolaj Ehlers, who will likely line-up alongside Dubois on the Jets’ second line, ranked 11th.
Dubois brings size, speed and playmaking ability to the Winnipeg Jets, who will now feature Scheifele, Dubois and Stastny down the middle on their top-three lines.
After a revolving door of second line centres in recent years including Bryan Little, Kevin Hayes and Stastny (twice), the Jets now have a player who can more than fill the role.
However, they had to give up one of the most productive goal scorers in the league to get him.
Since entering the NHL in 2016-17, only eight players have scored more goals than Laine. Only Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak have scored more on the power play. The 6-foot-5, 22-year-old Laine has all the makings of a future 50-goal scorer and goals are exactly what the Blue Jackets need.
Laine is in the second season of a two-year contract that pays him $6.75 million annually and is eligible to negotiate an extension as of March 12. His agent, Andy Scott, tells Sportsnet, “Patty alluded this morning to some great memories he had in Winnipeg. He has never been traded before so this was all new to him, but he understands it is part of the business. In our view he fits nicely into this Columbus Blue Jackets team. He’s heard from his new teammates, coaches and GM already and is really excited to get down to Columbus to get going.“
Laine joins a Blue Jackets team that was one of the top defensive outfits in the NHL. They also ranked 28th in scoring and 27th on the power play. This season, despite efforts to play a more offensive style of game, the Blue Jackets rank 28th in goals and are 25th on the power play.
Emil Bemstrom, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand have all spent time in the left circle on the power play this season, but it’s a safe bet that when Laine joins the team, he will take over in his familiar spot. In the past two seasons, Laine has scored 18 of his 23 power play goals from the left circle — many with his patented one-timer.
Laine has fired 81 one-timers at the net on the power play in the past two seasons, only Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Mike Hoffman have teed-up more. A dangerous shooting threat on the power play from below the top of the face-off circles will be a welcome addition for a Blue Jackets team that has been known to shoot predominantly from the perimeter while looking for rebounds and deflections.
Last season, less than 50 per cent of Columbus’ shot attempts on the power play came from the home plate, slot area. Only Minnesota, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Dallas and Los Angeles shot from the perimeter more.
Whether it’s the power play or at even-strength, Laine is one of the deadliest goal scorers from the high slot in the NHL. He is also an underrated puck mover. Laine ranked 22nd in controlled zone entries at even-strength last season, averaging just under five per-game.
John Tortorella has always been a defence-first coach and while Laine isn’t a player who will be contending for a Selke Trophy any time soon, his overall game has rounded out in recent years. The Blue Jackets need goals and that’s exactly what Laine brings to the table. If he can establish himself as a 40-plus goal per-year player as he enters his mid-20s, this trade could end up looking pretty good for Columbus who also received…
A Columbus native, Roslovic joins the Blue Jackets after signing a two-year contract with the team. Roslovic has played centre during his pro career and can add depth at the position for a Columbus team that has Max Domi, Alex Texier, Riley Nash and Mikko Koivu, amongst others, but no bonafide star power down the middle.
Last season, Roslovic played mostly with Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers on a line that finished with an expected goals for percentage of 49.6 per cent. Roslovic is versatile and will likely see time on the wing and at centre. If he can establish himself as a second line centre with the Blue Jackets, that will be a win for his new team.