In many ways, the fact that Calgary Flames development camp is at the Winsport complex at Canada Olympic Park is fitting because it has allowed Dillon Dube’s year to come full circle. In just 12 short months, the trajectory of his hockey career has changed drastically.
A year ago, he was one of several under-18 hopefuls battling for a spot on Team Canada’s entry at the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic. From that camp came a trip to Europe and a gold medal, a second season with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets and a second straight trip to the conference finals. Following the post-season, he was drafted by his hometown Flames in the second round – 56th overall, the pick the Flames got in the Kris Russell trade – and his July ends with a trip to Toronto for Hockey Canada’s World Junior development camp.
As the youngest player in Flames camp, though, he’s got his feet solidly on the ground and he’s paying attention to the older players around him. (Which would be everybody.)
“I think it’s just the work I need
to put in,” said Dube, of the main takeaway for him from the camp. “Obviously these guys are very more mature than me. I’m
still 17 years old. To see the work I need to put in to match them is
the important thing to me.”
One of the interesting quirks of this camp is it allows Dube to cross paths with some players he has seen in the past. For example, he crossed paths with Eetu Tuulola and Linus Lindstrom, but he also pointed out recognizing past Memorial Cup opponent Hunter Smith (notably by his gigantic beard). Comparing himself to somebody like Smith, who’s graduated to pro hockey since the last time he shared the ice with Dube, allows the younger player to compare himself to the more seasoned players.
The big difference probably isn’t as fancy as you’d think.
“I think it’s effort,” said Dube. “I think in
junior, you can maybe show up five days a week. Here it’s every
single day. It’s waking up early. It’s acting like a professional
every single day.”
After the whirlwind year he’s undergone, Dube is remarkably level-headed and even-keel. His selection by the Flames has given him the opportunity to play close to home and fulfill a dream by potentially suiting up in the Saddledome for the team he grew up watching, but it’s also given him a new series of challenges, beginning with World Junior camp.
For his part, Dube seems to have taken everything in stride.
“I’m pretty happy with everything
that’s happened,” said Dube. “I’ve been able to play on some pretty good teams. In
Kelowna we’ve had two great years there and overall I’m pretty lucky.”