WINNIPEG — Pierre-Luc Dubois had only been a member of the Winnipeg Jets for 24 hours but said Sunday he was feeling settled in his new NHL city.
“It already feels like home,” Dubois said. “I got here last night at 10:30 but waking up this morning and being back in Canada and being here … but it already feels good here. I’m getting texts from the players. I was on the phone with the organization yesterday. I have a really good feeling.”
The 22-year-old center was traded to the Jets by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. The Jets also received a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Though Dubois was comfortable after arriving in Winnipeg late Saturday, his situation in Columbus was considerably more clouded. In the fifth game of the season for the Blue Jackets, he was benched by coach John Tortorella for the final 46:32 after playing five shifts and 3:55 in the first period in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dubois, who was a restricted free agent, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jackets on Dec. 31 but also asked to be traded. Though he said on “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday that Tortorella was not to blame, he did not elaborate on Sunday for the reason he wanted out of Columbus.
“That’s something that I’m moving on from,” he said. “A lot of things happened in the past two or three years. I’m extremely grateful for everything that Columbus has done for me. I’m excited for this new chapter, this new opportunity with a new team, a new coaching staff, a new organization, new fans.”
Dubois did not answer when asked if he sees Winnipeg as a long-term fit, but said he’s already got a familiarity with the Manitoba capital.
His father, Eric, has been an assistant coach with the Jets’ American Hockey League team in Winnipeg since 2016-17. Dubois was in Winnipeg for a lengthy stay with his parents after the NHL paused the 2019-20 season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“I spent my quarantine here almost a year ago,” he said.
During his time in Winnipeg last spring and after his quarantine, Dubois and his sister bought bikes and explored the city and that included the discovery of a popular local Italian market/restaurant.
“I got familiar with DeLuca’s that I’m really excited to go back to,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the city more. I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates but I’m really excited for this new chapter.”
With Canada law requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone crossing the United States-Canada border, Dubois is not sure when he will be able to make his Jets debut.
“The last thing I heard was yesterday and it was two weeks,” he said. “And once that two weeks ends, I’ll be ready. If it’s before, I’ll be ready, too, but I’m not nervous about the quarantine part.”
If the quarantine is two weeks, Dubois’ first possible game for the Jets would be at the Calgary Flames on Feb. 9.
In the meantime, he’s planning with coach Paul Maurice and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff about how he will get ready to join his new teammates.
“I talked yesterday to Paul and Kevin and they said they want me to be a part of the meetings,” Dubois said. “They’re going to try and do something on Zoom so I can be a part of the team meetings.
“I’m going to be watching all the games, trying to do some video on the forecheck, learn everything, learn tendencies for players so when the games start and when I get to practice, I haven’t missed a beat. The quarantine, obviously, maybe the physical part is a bit challenging but there is always ways to get ready and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be ready for that first practice and for that first game.”
The No. 3 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, one pick behind Laine, had one goal in five games for the Blue Jackets this season. He has 159 points (66 goals, 93 assists) in 239 NHL games.
In his first three seasons, he scored four points (one goal, three assists) in six games against the Jets and said he found them to be an annoying opponent, especially Connor Hellebuyck, who won the Vezina Trophy last season as the top goalie in the NHL.
“It’s a team that I used to hate playing against,” he said. “The combination of size and skill and work ethic, and just hard to play against, and then you finish it off with one of the best goalies in the NHL. It’s really annoying playing against them, and to be able to play for them now, to play on the other side of it, like I said before the combination of size and skill is something I have, too, and it will be a perfect fit.”