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    Newly acquired Kings center Pierre-Luc Dubois ready to ‘just fully be me’
    • July 12, 2023

    EL SEGUNDO — Although he made it to a Dodgers game, a Galaxy match and other outdoor events that might have left his skin sun-kissed after nearly a week in Southern California, center Pierre-Luc Dubois was looking a bit pale during his first in-person interview as a member of the Kings.

    “I feel like I haven’t slept or haven’t stopped in the five or six days I’ve been here; it’s been really fun,” Dubois said.

    If he’s been soaking up his new environs, it might be understandable as he will, foreseeably, be staying a while, and that’s a novel feeling for him. Not only has he successfully asked out of two NHL cities in six seasons (more on that later), Dubois grew up the son of a Quebecois coach and a supportive Atlantan mom. That meant stints in England, Germany and three different Canadian cities before Dubois moved away from home at 15 to intensify preparation for his pro career.

    “It helped prepare me for this life of hockey where you could always, potentially, be on the move,” Dubois said of his youth.

    Since turning pro, he has been on the move more than once, most recently when he was traded to the Kings, who signed him to a hefty eight-year, $68 million contract extension. That pact came after they moved heaven and earth in trades to accommodate his contract and that of Dubois’ former Columbus Blue Jackets teammate, defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov. The unique aspect of that commitment might be less on the Kings’ side than on that of Dubois.

    His infamous final shift and subsequent benching and trade from Columbus ended his first NHL stint in a sequence that saw him request and effectively force his departure. As he approached a contractual impasse this summer, he informed his second club, the Winnipeg Jets, that they should be looking for ways to move him before next season, when he would have been eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

    “I don’t really live in the past. I try to live in the moment. With an eight-year contract, obviously, you get to live in the future a bit,” Dubois said. “But I think the opportunity to help build and help maintain the culture of winning is really interesting.”

    Dubois did not shy away from questions about his past, reputation or character, but was a bit guarded and vague in addressing any potential baggage. What was clear was that he felt that the Kings offered a more conducive situation that lured him into the maximum commitment possible.

    “There’s so many rumors, so many things floating around,” Dubois said. “I think as a player, and as a person mostly, there’s times where you just want to grab the microphone and say something. But, also, you have to remain patient. You have to remain positive.”

    If his tan and his public perception weren’t quite up to par just yet, his physique appeared to be, which was nothing new for the meticulous pivot.

    Dubois packed on 40 pounds of muscle in the two campaigns leading up to his draft eligibility, helping him ascend the board all the way to 2016’s third overall selection. From his high school years onward, Dubois has worked with Dr. Sebastien Lagrange of Axxeleration Performance Center in Châteauguay, Quebec.

    “When I was (15), (my father) told me, ‘If you want to make it to the NHL, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices at some point, and this could be a time where you might have to move away to get better training.’ And that’s what I did,” Dubois said. “I moved to Montreal and started training with Sebastien. Our relationship has really developed through the years. At first, he was my trainer and now he’s a really good friend.”

    Lagrange said the categorizations of Dubois, who said he was “misunderstood at times,” as capricious or cantankerous hardly tracked with the young man he’d known and worked with closely for a decade.

    “If I tell him to do three repetitions, he does three repetitions, not two, not four,” said Lagrange, who added that Dubois showed uncommon discipline not only during workouts but in seeking out other activities and professionals to improve his skills, conditioning and physique.

    Dubois, listed at 6-foot-4, had skated around his peak functional weight of 225 pounds, but he slimmed down from 11% body fat to just under 9%, tipping the scales around 215 presently, Lagrange said. While the offseason ahead will focus largely on refinement, conditioning, injury prevention and work toward greater explosiveness, Lagrange said he thought Dubois would carry a desire onto the ice to show the world a player beyond what he already had in Columbus and Winnipeg.

    “He is underrated because if everyone knew Pierre-Luc, they would quickly understand his ability to consistently compete – his willingness to give maximum effort no matter the situation in every aspect of his life – is off the charts,” Lagrange said. “He has been taking responsibility for his development since I met him at 15 years old, and he hasn’t changed since. This is the quality that can turn a good athlete into a great athlete and a great player into an elite player.”

    The Athletic spoke to Dubois’ agent Pat Brisson, who pointed to the opportunity for Dubois to re-write his narrative much as Jack Eichel did after being traded from Buffalo to Stanley Cup champion Vegas, and Kings president Luc Robitaille, who expressed confidence in the relationship between Dubois and the organization.

    “You never know until you’re in the room. But I do believe a kid like this, he wants to come to us. He plays hard. He defends his teammates. He’s a team guy,” Robitaille told The Athletic.

    For Dubois, the years ahead in “a city that feels like you can never be in a bad mood” represented possibilities, in hockey and beyond, and a stunning horizon rather than a chance to rectify any aspect of the past.

    “It’ll be a fun opportunity for me to just be who I am, not show anybody or prove to anybody, just fully be me,” Dubois said.

    That attitude might gel with the Kings’ existing group, which has never been especially image-conscious, much as Dubois’ singular focus on team success in his interview certainly did. Dubois reiterated that the Kings’ alternate captain Phillip Danault, a fellow francophone, seemed more intimately familiar than their limited contact would have suggested. He also repeated that captain Anze Kopitar, a man he might eventually replace as the Kings’ No. 1 center, was a role model for a young Dubois.

    “Sometimes he doesn’t get all the recognition that he should or all the attention that he should, but he’s won two Stanley Cups,” Dubois said. “That’s the goal.”

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