The final steps of the Flames’ rebuild likely happened at the 2016 draft, where the Flames came up loaded with draft picks and returned with a handful of very, very promising prospects. One of them is already trending towards being an elite NHL player, and there are two or three that look to at least be regular contributors. Given that NHL teams usually get around one player per draft, it’s not a bad haul.
The next in line to graduate is Dillon Dube, the second Flames pick of that draft. The youngish (still 19) centre has grown immensely, starting his career as an under the radar energy player and finishing it as a potential top six winger. He may not be one of the most exciting, both in play style and in potential, but Dube is likely to be one of the Flames’ more important players moving forward.
Dube has always been one of the Kelowna Rockets’ star gems, having made the leap to the WHL from the prestigious Notre Dame Hounds of Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Having been buried on some deep, Memorial Cup-worthy teams, Dube worked his way up year after year, slowly earning respect from hockey minds. He got the attention of Hockey Canada, earning nods for the CHL-Russia superseries and the World Juniors, picking up a silver medal in the latter during the 2017 competition.
Dube’s season got off to a hot start as he made a name for himself due to a strong training camp, and survived until some of the last rounds of cuts (arguably due to a jammed up roster and the contractual convenience of sending him back to junior rather than merit). He then joined the Rockets for his fourth WHL season, trying to follow up on a strong but injury ravaged 55-point in 40-game year.
Dube also had high expectations to meet for the 2018 World Juniors, where he was named captain on a team still aching from the previous year’s defeat in the gold medal game. He played strong, no-nonsense hockey on Canada’s top line, picking up five points in seven games.
There should be an emoji for something so beautiful that words cannot describe it, for example Dillon Dube's goal: pic.twitter.com/6jhIubw6fg
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) January 6, 2018
With the Rockets, Dube had an outstandingly good season. He smashed all previous bests, hitting new highs in points (84), goals (38), and assists (46). He did this all in 53 games, which would translate to 114 points over a full 72 games.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points||NHLe|
Dube was probably one of the more consistently strong performers year round. After the WJC, Dube’s NHLe never dipped below 34, and never slipped below 35 during the final month of the regular season. His improvement from the beginning of the year to the end is particularly impressive.
I also love his knack for generating primary points. His P1/G ranks ninth in the WHL in all situations, and fifth at 5v5. Factoring in estimated time on ice, he finished sixth in estimate P1/60 at 5v5. All in all, he’s really really good at being the primary scorer, regardless of the game state.
Methodology note: what I do to find these comparables starts with era adjusting prospect scoring numbers, both for all situations and 5v5, then comparing the adjusted numbers to the real numbers of players within the same age range by year (starts at 1996-97 for the WHL). Players within 10% on either sides of the prospect’s PPG and have played 20 games are what I consider comparable players.
From those comparable players, those who hit over 200 games are considered successful NHLers (so players up to the 2014-15 season are included, as they have had the potential to play in over 200 NHL games) and their PPGs are taken down. After that, we compare the ratio of successful NHLers to the non successful, add up the GP and points scored, and then we have a workable number for how likely it is they will be successful, and how strong of NHLers they will be. Always remember that percentages don’t determine futures and this is not a final say about a prospect’s career, but a good idea of where they are likely headed.
The full data for Dube’s comparables can be found here, including comparable data for his ages 16-18 seasons.
The numbers are pretty strong for Dube, especially considering the ratio of WHL players who actually play in the NHL (i.e.: given the proximity of junior CHL leagues to the NHL versus AHL to NHL, you are likely to find a higher percent of matches, as players in the AHL actually have an easier path to the NHL). Of players who performed similarly to Dube this year, one-third made it to 200 games in the NHL, scoring at a .45 PPG clip. At 5v5, that number slips a little to 22%, but the production remains similar, .44 PPG. From hits in both the AS and 5v5 categories, the percent of successful similar players jumps to 37%, with PPG slightly bumping up to .46.
When considering his entire career, Dube has some interesting comparables. Very strong comparables include Brandon Dubinsky (matched 5/8 categories) and Cody Eakin (5/8). Clarke MacArthur (4/6, as MacArthur only played three WHL seasons) is also an interesting comparable. Jordan Eberle (4/8) also makes an appearance on the list. If we can draw one general conclusion, it’s likely that Dube will be a reliable 40-point scorer in the NHL, and could even see 50-60 points per season during his prime. That’s something to get excited about.
One particularly interesting comparable is Brendan Gallagher. Dube matched Gallagher in six of eight possible categories, making them extremely strong comparables, and the strongest of all matches. Given the similarities in height (5’10 vs 5’9) and playing styles (small, but plays hard and not afraid of contact; strong two-way players who can play special teams; equally good at scoring goals and puck distribution), the two are nearly a perfect match. Gallagher joined the Habs immediately following the 2012-13 lockout, and has been a .5 PPG scorer throughout his career with very strong possession numbers. Let’s hope Dube can also replicate that.
— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) November 30, 2017
If you’re a Flames fan, you have to be cheering for the Tri-City Americans. They’re currently up 3-0 against the Rockets. The sooner Dube is eliminated, the sooner he can join the club. Since Dube doesn’t count as a recall, the Flames can get him some shifts, see what he’s made of, start trying him out on special teams, and do it all without burning a year on his contract – maybe one thing to look forward to as this awful season winds down. After that, he is fair game to join the Stockton Heat and help with their playoffs.
After that? A roster spot might be his to lose. If you can think back to the preseason, Dube was arguably one of the most impressive forwards. Even saddled with a dog’s breakfast of players (Luke Gazdic, Garnet Hathaway, Tanner Glass, and Ryan Lomberg were his most common linemates), Dube left an impression on Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. I think his odds are pretty good.
And there is likely a spot open. If he wants to remain a centre, Matt Stajan is likely leaving and Nick Shore and/or Curtis Lazar are probably not going to outshine Dube for it. If he wants to play wing, his options might be a bit more limited as LW is the deepest position in the org. Perhaps he can free up one of Matthew Tkachuk or Sam Bennett to get reps on the top line. There’s a lot you can do with Dube, which means there’s a lot more you can do with the rest of the roster.
All in all, a pretty exciting prospect that can certainly make some noise next year.