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2016 NHL Draft Profile: Pierre-Luc Dubois among year's best forwards

Pierre-Luc Dubois good. Really good. He might even be fourth overall good.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

In November, when I released my first ranking of the 2016 draft season with McKeen's Hockey, I had Pierre-Luc Dubois ranked ninth (first among QMJHL) draft-eligible prospects when most rankings had him outside the top 10 and behind Julien Gauthier. Since joining FC Hockey, we have consistently ranked Dubois around sixth overall. And while Dubois has certainly progressed admirably, highlighted by a standout performance in the BMO Top Prospects Game, he has always been a dynamic player and one of the top prospects eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

In fact, Dubois' best month of the season came back in November before he'd garnered his recent attention when he put up 22 points in 11 games.

In his pre-QMJHL draft season, Dubois was one of Quebec's premier talents, leading his Notre-Dame Albatros team in scoring before dominating with Team Quebec White at the region's annual top prospects tournament and practice sessions.

As a rookie in the QMJHL, Dubois outscored his fellow high-end 2016 draft-eligible forwards with 45 points in 54 games (outscoring Laberge by 14 points in four fewer games) as a 16-year-old assistant captain.

This season, as the primary scoring threat on a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles team that consists of high-end Russian wingers Evgeny Svechnikov and Maxim Lazarev, Dubois blossomed as the QMJHL's third-leading scorer, outdoing standout draft-eligible rookie Vitalii Abramov (more on him another time). Dubois, who is as much a passer as he is a shooter, also finished second among draft-eligible QMJHL forwards to somehow-unranked Matthew Boucher (definitely more on him later) with 236 shots on goal.

After a delightful camp with Team Canada (I thought he was going to make the team), scoring in several of their pre-tournament games against the CIS All-Stars and then again in exhibition, Dubois was one of the final cuts for this year's World Juniors. And while he slowed down in the playoffs, finishing fifth on Cape Breton in scoring with 12 points in as many games, his shot totals remained high. Through their second round playoff exit at the hands on the Saint John Sea Dogs, Dubois registered 41 shots.

Naturally a left wing, Dubois made the switch to centre full-time late in the season and played strictly down the middle by the time the playoffs rolled around. Despite his size and strength, Dubois hasn't quite developed into a strong faceoff man but his net drive and versatility as a playmaker and a finisher have made him a viable option to remain a centre at the pro level.

A physical, sometimes volatile player, Dubois has a tendency to take too many unnecessary minor penalties and was one of the most penalized players in the QMJHL as a result. Late in the season, he was also suspended after checking from behind fellow 2016 prospect Luke Green.

At 6-3 and over 200 Ibs, Dubois' strong skating (not elite, but definitely strong) and puck handling has allowed him to craft a powerful, net-drive game that draws a lot of attention and opens up space into the offensive zone.

Last summer, at Hlinka Memorial, Dubois was excellent for Team Canada on route to being named their player of the game in a blowout win over Team Sweden with three points. While most young players have a tendency to shoot high, Dubois works best sliding pucks along the ice (not always hard, just picks his spots incredibly well). In the gold medal win, he did it twice, setting up Beck Malenstyn after a pretty passing play with Tyson Jost for his other point. He finished the tournament third on Team Canada in scoring with five points (Eliteprospects says three but it's mistaken) in five games.

Watch both of those goals below.

Soft hands for a player of his size, Dubois also has an uncanny ability for handling the puck in tight at his feet and making plays in traffic. And while he's capable of absorbing contact, and often engages it, he's skilled enough as a puck handled to weave out of danger as well.

Out wide off the rush, Dubois doesn't take as many risks to the middle of the ice as many other top prospects do and instead prefers to take the park hard wide or stop up and carry it laterally across the high slot. He's also a uniquely intelligent forward, and doesn't rely solely on a north-south game like a player like Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads does.

Strong defensively, Dubois does a good job getting inside on puck carriers to forcefully remove them from the puck or lift their stick and turn up ice.

At the next level, he has one of the more translatable NHL games in the class and projects to be a real scoring threat with versatility at two different forward positions and a strong-two way dimension.

He fits comfortably into the group of prospects I rank from 4-8 in this class -- alongside Jakob ChychrunMatthew TkachukAlex Nylander and Clayton Keller.