Many would be shocked to hear a 56th overall pick from 2016 was able to beat five first round picks from the last two years to make the Team Canada roster at the 2017 World Junior Championships. However, if you’re Dillon Dube, it’s not so surprising. After all, the Flames prospect has been defying expectations regularly throughout his young career.
Dube is only the third Flames forward prospect in the last 10 years to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He has earned a reputation as a speedy, well-rounded forward with a lot of offensive upside as a point-per-game player with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League (WHL), but it’s his versatility that helped him make the team. Dube can play a high-tempo game at centre or on the wing and he’s already been contributing with Team Canada at the tournament with three assists over his first three games while playing on the team’s fourth line.
Who is Dillon Dube?
At 5 feet 11 inches, 183 pounds, Dube might sound like an underwhelming prospect but his ability to play solidly in so many situations is what makes him valuable. He can contribute as a top-six forward or play a gritty close-checking style that helps his team to close out and win games. That’s why Team Canada chose to take a bit of a risk in selecting him for the team. It was an eyebrow-raising decision because Dube has only played in 10 WHL games this season, racking up 11 points and 14 penalty minutes, before a knee injury took him out of action for seven weeks.
“I think it was the biggest relief I’ve ever had for a team I was trying to make. It was just an unbelievable moment,” said Dube in an interview with the Calgary Herald. “It was awesome to see all the guys you worked with and everybody has got this huge smile on their face. I think for everybody, you get shivers almost when you found out that you made the team. It was pretty cool.”
Dube’s accomplishments this season have been turning some high-profile heads in Calgary. He has rapidly progressed since the Flames drafted him and is also well-known locally having played for the Cochrane Eagles of the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) in Alberta.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving to the Calgary Herald. “The thing with Dillon, too, is he went in and he really earned it. They all did, but he wasn’t a guy that was necessarily on the team when they went to camp, so he muscled his way on there.
“And he did it in a year that he’s missed a big chunk of time. So all the credit to him. I think it’s great for him that he’s going to go through that experience.”
Team Canada and Beyond
It’s far too early to tout Dube as the next great Flames prospect. However, it’s hard to argue with his ability to work through adversity and with the consistent production that he has put up with the Rockets along the way. At just 18 years old, he still has a long way to go if he wants to become a regular with the Flames. However, he is showing great potential and there is no better place to get more experience then at the World Junior Championship tournament. After the fanfare though, he’ll return to Kelowna where many eyes will be watching him to maintain the effective style of play he has developed during his career.
“He’s going to be a key component of us having success going forward,” Kelowna Rockets head coach Jason Smith said of Dube to the B.C. local news. “He’s obviously got elite puck skills and vision for the game. He’s very quick and he’s a dynamic guy, plus he’s really looking forward to growing his game and being a 200-foot player.”
For now, Dube’s focus is solely on earning another gold medal for Canada at this year’s tournament. The journey so far hasn’t been very bumpy with Canada earning convincing wins over Russia, Slovakia and Latvia, but a New Year’s showdown is up next with Team U.S.A. to close out the preliminary round.
With any luck, Dube will once again exceed expectations and earn a new accolade as the best Flames forward prospect to play at the tournament in recent memory.