“I’m going to do everything it takes to be ready physically and mentally for that game,” the forward told NHL.com Thursday.
Dubois was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Jets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic on Jan. 23. The Jets also received a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
With Canada law requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone crossing the United States-Canada border, Dubois had been in isolation in Winnipeg since the day of the trade. Dubois skated Saturday when the quarantine ended and he’s scheduled to practice with the Jets for the first time Sunday, two days before their next game against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SNW, TSN3, NHL.TV).
“I’m trying to be very optimistic,” he said. “I think it’ll be good on the ice. This won’t be like the summer when you don’t work out for two or three weeks then you start again in midsummer. I’ve played five games, we had training camp, and I skated a lot more this offseason because of the way things were, so I’m hopeful.”
Dubois signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jackets as a restricted free agent Dec. 31, and requested a trade. He scored one goal in five game for Columbus and last played Jan. 21, when he played an NHL-career low 3:55 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was benched in the first period and traded two days later.
Since then, he’s been quarantining in a home the Jets arranged for him along with his French bulldog, Phillip, and his English bulldog, Georgia. Dubois said the Jets have helped him by including him in meetings by video and providing him with workout and video resources to get him up to speed with their concepts.
“I think they’ve done a really good job, whether it’s calls and watching videos together or just sending me clips,” he said. “They’ve called before games and told me to watch these things or how this team does it. Some of it’s been on Calgary this week, so when I play that game next week, I’ll be ready. They’ve been really helpful to get me ready for when I jump in the lineup so I’m not starting at zero. I can start somewhere in the middle of the ladder. And it’s always fun to talk about hockey, so they’ve been really helpful.”
The No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Dubois scored 159 points (66 goals, 93 assists) in 239 games in his four NHL seasons.
In a wide-ranging interview, Dubois discussed what else he’s been doing while quarantining, his thoughts on his new team, and conversations he’s had with former Blue Jackets teammates:
Aside from hockey-related things, what have you been doing during your quarantine?
“I work out, do my video meetings and review, watch the games, try to do a little bit more video because I’ve got so much time, so why not? Then after that, it’s hard. My friends and my family, they know I don’t have a lot to do, so I’m always on the phone with them and catching up with people I haven’t necessarily seen in the past year. In the first quarantine (in Winnipeg with his parents during the pause last year), I tried to learn Italian. Right now, I’m trying to learn German. My dad played in Germany, so I’ve always been fascinated with Germany and Switzerland. I went to the U-18 championships in Switzerland and I loved it there, so I wanted to try to learn German. And here, Leon Gawanke who plays for [Manitoba] (the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate), is from Berlin, and I played with him in Cape Breton (of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and we’re pretty good friends. He said he’s going to be my teacher for $20 an hour, which isn’t too bad. So I have a membership with Rosetta Stone and for the Italian, I went with the three-month membership then I stopped. Now I put a little more pressure on myself with German, took the one-year membership, so I can’t just quit.”
Who has been helping you keep sane during quarantine?
“My girlfriend (Maddie) will be mad if I don’t say her, she’s been really helpful, but my parents too. (Dubois’ father, Eric, is an assistant with Manitoba of the AHL and is based in Winnipeg.) Having them here has been amazing for me. I can’t see them yet, but they’ve come to drop groceries off, and since I don’t have a coffee machine here, my mom (Jill) went and got me coffee a few mornings and left it on the front step. Having them here has made me feel less alone because I haven’t met anybody yet from the team. To have them here has been great for me.”
Have you thought about going for a midnight skate at one of the local outdoor rinks?
“I actually thought of that, but I didn’t. I asked my dad if he could buy me some cross-country skis, but I’ve got to respect the quarantine. I even thought of making a rink in my backyard, but not enough time for that.”
What have you learned about the Jets?
“I always knew they were a really good team, that they had really good forwards, good puck-moving defensemen and a good goalie. But it’s been interesting to see their systems. As an opponent, you know they’re hard to play against but maybe don’t know necessarily why. So learning the systems here, they’ve given me the statistics of why this works and why that doesn’t work and you start to think, ‘Now I get it.’ I wish I knew this before when I was playing against them, what I might have done. They really play well in their system, so with the mix of talent they have and the system they play and the rules they play by, no wonder they have so much success.”
Any idea who you might play with?
“Not yet. For now, we’ve just been talking about the systems and learning that and just paying attention to how the wingers play, how the centers play, what the rules are of what makes them so successful. But we haven’t talked about what position or what line yet. They have so much talent up front, so much depth, wherever I am in the lineup, on the left or right or center, that it’s going to be a good line.”
Any apprehension about meeting your new teammates all at once this weekend?
“It’s the first time I’ve been traded in the NHL. I was traded in junior but that’s different there. And like I said, I’ve been texting with a few guys who welcomed me here. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the group, and Mark Letestu who played here knows the team really well and he told me I’d really enjoy myself here and that the group is amazing, so it makes me even more excited to meet everybody.”
What does this feel like jumping onto a Canadian team and now playing in the Scotia North Division?
“It’s exciting. It’s a challenging division. Every team is playing well. There’s a lot of good players, so every night’s a different challenge. I’ve been watching the three games against Calgary this week and they look like playoff games to me. We’re 10, 11 games into the season and you already see the intensity, the physical play and all that. So it’s going to be really exciting to jump into that. As players, you want those intense games where it feels like rivalry night every night. You don’t have to create that kind of energy, it’s already there, even without fans. In a division where there’s a rivalry every night, the energy creates itself.”
What conversations have you had with your former Columbus teammates?
“It was an emotional thing to leave Columbus. I made friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. My first year I lived with David Savard and his wife and two kids. Now they have three. He was kind of a big brother for me. We always laughed about it because I was like their kids’ uncle. There were definitely relationships there, guys like [Alexandre] Texier, [Oliver] Bjorkstrand, that I’m definitely going to miss. I’ve been on FaceTime with a few guys since I left. I wish them nothing but the best. They have a great group of guys there. I created relationships in Columbus that will last the rest of my life and I’m really grateful that I got to play there and learn from everybody there, but I’m looking forward to this next chapter with the Jets.”