Dillon Dube will be facing another big test tonight. How many times have we already said that over the last couple weeks?
After turning heads with a strong training camp in 2017-18, Dube returned to Kelowna in the WHL and proceeded to light it up, along with captaining Team Canada to Gold at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Dube returned to Calgary this fall and immediately looked like the most dominant player in the Flames two rookie games against the Edmonton Oilers, racking up three points and looking dangerous on almost every shift.
In his first pre-season game, Dube lit the lamp three times and again looked like one of the better players on the ice with lineups mainly consisting of AHL players.
Against the Vancouver Canucks, Dube played as the first line center and fit the role beautifully, including setting up a shorthanded goal for Andrew Mangiapane with a filthy pass on a 2-on-1. Again though, it was against mainly AHLers so it was important to temper our expectations.
Last night against the Winnipeg Jets who dressed at least half the roster that took them to the Western Conference Final last year, Dube performed admirably. With the Flames dressing almost entirely AHLers, Dube’s play stood out as he wasn’t backing down from guys like Dustin Byfuglien (who planted Dube on his backside a few times) or one of the NHL’s premiere centremen in Mark Scheifele.
Dube also scored a powerplay goal with a snipe on last year’s Vezina trophy runner-up Connor Hellebuyck, further impressing Flames fans.
Obviously Dube’s game still needs some improvement, as he took a late holding penalty that led to the Jets tying goal, but a lot of that will come with experience at the NHL level.
Now it’s very easy to be dazzled and excited about your own prospects, but after watching the games against the Oilers, Canucks, and Jets with their respective play-by-play crews, each of them spent time during their broadcast raving about Dube’s play.
Tonight’s Game will give Dube a Taste of an NHL Lineup
With the Vancouver Canucks coming to town, Dube will be dressing for his fourth pre-season game and third in four nights. Tonight’s game will be the first time that Dube will be surrounded by primarily NHL talent, at least on the forward core.
Dube will be centering a line featuring two NHL regulars in Sam Bennett and Michael Frolik, and it will be very interesting to see how he performs as a result.
The Flames do have a pretty strong centre group heading into the season with Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Derek Ryan, and Mark Jankowski. As a result it’s quite likely that we could see Dube on the wing to start the season should he make the Flames.
For Dube, it’s really his time to show if he can still stand out among a forward core of mainly NHL regulars. If he can continue his strong play of late, the Flames will continue to have their hands tied when it comes to making final roster decisions.
There is the argument to be made for having Dube play top line minutes in Stockton to prepare him for the Flames, but with Calgary having their top six seemingly set for the long-term, Dube may see more benefit getting some bottom six action in the NHL immediately.
He already has a lot of the skills and nuances to his game that guys often have to develop in the minor leagues, so giving him the chance to immediately gain some NHL experience makes sense. There is always the option to send him down if he struggles early in the season as well.
Dube has met and exceeded expectations with pretty much every new challenge he’s faced over the last year, and he’ll have another one tonight. Would it be crazy to expect anything other than another solid performance?
Should Dillon Dube make the Flames?
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