CALGARY — Flames prospect Dillon Dube is making the most of his first-line opportunity as 15 of Calgary’s veteran forwards are away at the 2018 NHL China games.
Part of the contingent who remained in North America, the highly touted 20-year-old centre followed up a standout performance last week in two rookie games by scoring three times on Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
“There’s a team over there in China right now, there are a lot regulars over there, so for me, I need to do some good things to stand out here,” said Dube, who was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
He has certainly done that. In his first pre-season test, his hat-trick had Calgary ahead 3-2 before Ethan Bear’s tied it in the final minute of the second period. Kailer Yamamoto’s second goal broke the 3-3 tie in the third and Edmonton scored a flurry of late goals to run away with a 7-4 victory.
But at the time of the year where individual performances outshine team results, Dube was the headliner once again, while centring a line with Kerby Rychel and Buddy Robinson.
Three games, three different sets of wingers, and each time, Dube has excelled.
“Great performance by Dillon,” said Stockton coach Cail MacLean, who is running the Flames bench with Bill Peters with the main group in China. “Some exceptional finish on top of the speed that he’s been showing. Pretty exciting to see him come up with that type of effort.”
After four seasons with Kelowna in the WHL and with two tours of duty with Team Canada at the World Juniors, most recently captaining them to a gold medal last year, the one thing for certain is Dube is turning pro.
What’s still to be decided is will he begin the season with Stockton in the AHL, or land a fourth line job with Calgary.
“It’s a confidence booster. Coming from summer, you want to see results from the hard work you put in in the summer,” said Dube.
His first goal came just 23 seconds in, when he slipped a shot through the pads of Mikko Koskinen, the 30-year-old Finn signed by Edmonton in the off-season to be Cam Talbot’s back-up.
In the second period, it was a similar script. This time, Dube curled out from behind the net and on the first shot of the period, put a high shot from a sharp angle past the six-foot-seven goaltender.
Dube put the Flames ahead four minutes later, snapping a shot past Koskinen on a breakaway, after being sprung by Robinson, who collected his second assist of the night.
“Awesome,” was how Dube summed up the pass from the journeyman minor leaguer. “I was calling for it and he didn’t even look. It threw me off a little bit, I just about missed it.”
The quality that stands out for Dube is his speed and he showed it on that breakaway. Nobody was going to catch him.
“His skating helps him rise above,” MacLean says. “With that speed down the middle of the ice, he can create.”
With the main group not expected back from southeast China until the weekend, Dube will have more opportunities to impress. Calgary plays in Vancouver on Wednesday and in Winnipeg on Friday.
“A week ago he was playing his first game in a long time. Then suddenly, a few days later, he played a stronger game, which is to be expected,” says MacLean. “Now you get bigger, faster competition around him and again, he’s continuing to improve. So that’s a positive sign for him to see him continue to improve and excel as the competition ramps up around him.”