The addition of Pierre-Luc Dubois is the perfect opportunity to launch a new series on LAHockeyNow. The Film Room series.
Using video, I’ll discuss what makes Dubois a good player and his flaws. Uncovering why the Kings were willing to pay a hefty fee for Dubois.
We all know the scouting report on Dubois up to this point. A big, skilled winger who likes to get engaged physically. And he doesn’t disappoint on film. He’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice and is a physical force.
That being said, there are some concerns, particularly in the defensive zone.
Ability to Carry the Puck:
The Athletic’s Eric Stephens defined Dubois well, “Dubois is a horse that’s tough to tame.”
The first clip shows Dubois’ ability to gallop up ice and carry the puck. Picking the puck up in his own zone, Dubois skates past Jordan Kyrou — a fast player in his own right — protects the puck and then attacks the open ice. He finishes the play with a goal, but it’s one Thomas Greiss will want back. The combination of speed and size is more impressive here.
Earlier in that same game Dubois showed off that size and speed combination again. Beating Colton Parayko wide and fighting through contact to draw a penalty. He then beats Ryan O’Reilly in the corner before feathering a nice backhand pass to Kyle Connor in front.
A Physical Element:
This clip encapsulates the complete package of Dubois. It starts with him puck-watching, stuck in no man’s land, almost costing his team a goal when Kappo Kakko picks the puck up unmarked in front. But he recovers, boxes out Filip Chytil and forces a turnover before flying up ice to create an odd-man rush.
Once in the zone, he pulls a nice curl-and-drag move to create space for the pass and then shows a quick release when he gets the puck back. However, it’s what happens after Igor Shesterkin fights off his shot that should excite Kings fans. He comes up the wall and knocks the puck away from Kakko before finishing him hard into the boards. The Kings are missing a top-six forward with the ability and desire to make plays like that, and Dubois is more than willing.
Dubois picked up a lot of points on the power play last season playing the net front. At first glance, he’s a good replacement for Vilardi on the Kings’ top unit, but I don’t think he’s a perfect fit.
Mainly because he’s left-handed. If the Kings continue to run the power play from the left side, they need a right shot in front. If they want to use Dubois in the net front, they either have to tweak their system, or run the power play through the right side.
Dubois has some overlapping skills with Vilardi in this spot too. He’s able to pop out below the goal line and create from low, as he did here against Anaheim:
He drifts to the side of the net and immediately looks to force his way to the front and get a shot, something Vilardi did a lot of last season. He doesn’t score, but the chaos he creates leads to a goal for Connor.
I don’t think Dubois is as good at popping out and creating compared to Vilardi, but he looks like a better pure net-front presence. He uses his size well to plant himself in front and scored quite a few tip-in goals last season. Like this one against Tampa Bay:
I briefly mentioned some of Dubois’ defensive issues earlier and they show up a decent amount when watching him. This clip starts with a rough sequence in his own zone. Dubois is puck-watching and reaching for pucks instead of getting engaged physically. He then takes a big, lazy turn to get back into the zone instead of stopping and coming back, giving the Predators a numbers advantage down low.
It’s the kind of shift that gets young players in the league benched. However, he ends the shift with a flash of the talent that makes him so exciting. After breaking up a pass, he outmuscles Matt Duchene before skating the puck out of the zone. Then, after exchanging the puck with Brendan Dillon in the neutral zone, he nearly scores a fantastic solo goal.
If Dubois can more consistently provide the quality he shows in the second clip, he’ll become a dominant two-way forward. But the first half of that shift tells a different story.
This last clip really shows the dark side of Dubois’ game defensively. I hate to bag on a guy too much for one bad shift, but this leaves a lot to be desired.
Twice he half-heartedly engages Jason Dickinson physically, first in the corner and then along the boards. And then just lets Dickinson box him out in front. He doesn’t try to tie up his stick, nor does he try and move him. Dickinson’s a strong player in his own right, so getting boxed out isn’t a huge deal, but the lack of effort there is concerning.
If this was a one-off thing, at the end of a shift late in a game, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But these kinds of plays happened a decent amount when running through clips of Dubois.
Fantastic When Engaged:
When Dubois is engaged and playing with purpose, he looks great. He possesses the size, speed and skill to take over games, combined with a nastiness that the Kings lack in their lineup.
But too often he lacked that engagement, particularly in his own zone. There were plenty of shifts where he looked downright uninterested.
It’s okay to be cerebral and pick your spots, but you can’t coast around and puck-watching when defending.
If this change of scenery is what Dubois needs to be a motivated player who’s giving 100% every shift, the Kings have a genuine star on their hands.
If not, they still have an excellent player, but one who is going to frustrate fans and coaches at times.