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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon Dube on the opening night roster is a real possibility

The Dillon Dube hype train is picking up speed, and for good reason. From prospects camp and a pair of rookie games to the start of main camp at the Saddledome, Dube has been Calgary’s biggest standout on this side of the world. Dube has looked dynamic, dangerous, and responsible and he’s the early favourite to win a spot out of training camp. Right now, you don’t have to squint to see that happening.

HOW DOES IT MAKE SENSE?

In answering the above question, the most crucial thing is Dube’s performance; after all, winning a spot should come down to merit. Luckily for Dube, he’s performed well and has stood out for all the right reasons since rookie camp started earlier this month.

I’ve noticed three things with Dube, and they all bode well: he distributes the puck well, he’s confident with it on his stick in the offensive zone, and he’s strong without possession. It’s the third point that strikes me as most important, though.

Offensively, Dube has done a solid job of finding soft spots in coverage and moving to open areas to receive passes. It’s the mark of a really smart player, and it’s that same knowledge that helps him anticipate well at the other end. Dube puts himself in the right spots and reads opposing offences well to disrupt things effectively and turn things the other way.

We’re also talking about a great deal of versatility. While the Flames project Dube as a centre long term, there’s nothing stopping him from shifting to either wing. Dube has the ability to slot in on both the right and left side, and has done so effectively with WHL Kelowna and with Canada in World Junior action.

Finally, Dube’s contract status is impossible to ignore. Entering his 20-year-old season, Dube is eligible for American League action for the first time, which means the junior hockey “10-game rule” is rendered meaningless. There’s not much for him to accomplish with the Rockets, so even if he doesn’t make the big roster, Dube’s entry-level deal will start tolling in Stockton.

If he does make the roster, though, he’ll come at a rather attractive cap hit. Dube’s NHL number is just under $780,000, which would make him the most affordable player on the team. If he earns a spot on merit, Dube’s salary would give Calgary some nice flexibility.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT WORK

While Dube’s performance in a pair of rookie games and one preseason game has been admirable, there’s still plenty of work ahead. The Flames have yet to see a roster made up of primarily NHL players, at least on Canadian soil. That’s going to happen in the coming days, though, and that’ll be the most effective measuring stick.

There’s a couple of things that could happen. Going up against tougher competition, Dube’s effectiveness could drop to the point it’s clear the AHL is where he belongs, at least to start. Similarly, once the bulk of Calgary’s roster is back from China, it might become clear Dube isn’t quite at the level of those he’s competing with. In both cases, an AHL assignment would become an easy decision.

Usage is also a concern with a young player in his first year of professional hockey. Dube might be one of the team’s best 13 or 14 forwards come October, but for me, that won’t be good enough. To make the NHL roster, he’s going to have to earn a spot in the team’s top 12, which would afford him regular playing time.

At this stage of Dube’s career, there’s no point having him sit out on a regular basis. The Flames have plenty of options as extra forwards, but Dube shouldn’t be one of them. He needs to play, and if that’s not going to happen in Calgary, there’s absolutely no harm starting him with the Heat.

CONCLUSION

Without injury, there’s realistically just one playing spot up for grabs on the opening night roster. With the way he’s performed in the first week or so of on-ice work, Dube deserves credit for forcing himself into that conversation.

The evaluation process is going to get more accurate as September plays out, though. As the Flames start seeing better opposing lineups, and as the bulk of their regulars return from China, we’ll start to get a much better gauge of where Dube is. If we’re still having this conversation in two weeks, however, I don’t see why Dube wouldn’t be suiting up Oct. 3 in Vancouver.

        • Redleader

          In these games the best player wins and so far Dube has destroyed any soiler prospect. Big yaaawwwwnnn zzzzzzzz . And I wouldn’t gloat about a game where your 2.5 million dollar backup got lit up by kids and plugs ! Good luck , talbot is not a number 1 .

        • Bob Hartley

          @Cfan Ya no one here was gloating after the flames beat the oilers last week. Oh flames fans the hypocrisy.

          @oilcanboyd
          I would also say the oilers fielded an ahl-echl roster. Hence why some said Rittich would easily get a shutout last night. But 7 goals later now everyone is wondering who is going to be the flames backup. Last week gillies was the whipping boy now it’s Rittichs turn. #flamesthings lol

          • Cfan in Van

            Mr Hartley, I didn’t say that we weren’t discussing prospects game results here on the Flames site, but pointing out that someone going straight to the Flames blog to gloat is just pure-Oilers. There’s a difference between discussing on your own blog, and trolling. Maybe not to you though, because you’re here after all.

  • cunning_linguist

    If Dube continues to perform the way he has, the Flames absolutely need to find a spot for him. Not just because he would deserve it, but because it would set a real example for all of our prospects: “This is the level you need to be at. Come to camp. Dominate play. Welcome to the big club.” That’s how you motivate the kids, give them a roadmap to success. I don’t really count Monny/Tkachuk/Bennett in the same category due to their draft pedigree.

  • Alberta Ice

    Loved Dube’s team play attitude and desire to keep improving. Could be one of this year’s big story in the NHL. Meanwhile, I really hope Parsons gets more opportunities to show his stuff to us. Gillies really improved his play after the quick 3 goals that first game in China, but Rittich did not impress last night. That had to be rough for him and didn’t do his confidence much good. So I hope they play Parsons some or all in Vancouver Wednesday night.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Can we imagine for a moment how amazing a forth line of Bennett-Janko-Dube could be??

    The hockey IQ of Dube, impact without the puck, along with the finish and playmaking skills could really complement the other two on this line. That could be one of the best forth lines in the West.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Lazar and Hathaway should not be on the season opener roster, Dube should certainly be given a chance to perform. Lazar has hands of stone and Hathaway just bangs and crashes whereas Dube can score, pass and be responsible in the defensive zone.

  • oilcanboyd

    If Bennett doesn’t shine soon enough Dube will replace his spot at “centre” which Bennett can’t seem to master in the NHL.
    There was hesitation about Mony and Byng starting and staying in the NHL too. Don’t sell Dube short…

  • Squishin

    I like this kid. What a great skater. Speed is seemingly the premium skill nowadays. One needs other tools as well, of course, but a player is at a huge disadvantage if they can’t move very fast.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I’d take that. Its only one game, but Neal looked quite off last one. Will be looking forward to seeing where he fits in to this line up, and who he finds chemistry with. But if it works out, I would be exceedingly happy with this lineup.

      That’s a forth line that says to me “we’re here right now, and we are going to try and damnedest to be so effective that you will have to put us higher in the lineup. None of those players will want to stay on the forth line, especially Janks and Benny. Should be interesting!

      Very excited to see tomorrow’s game. Gfg

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      That’s one possible set of lines. Not bad. Totally agree on the D, with the possibility of Kulak alternating with Stone. There are so many possible lines you could use. I would prefer to keep Neal on a line that doesn’t have to be the defensive specialist line. Maybe something like this:

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm (prime starts and competition)
      Tkachuk-Ryan-Neal (line gets a decent mix of O-zone starts and lesser competition)
      Bennett-Backlund-Frolik (buried in the D-zone for most starts)
      Dube-Janko-Czarnik (speed, speed and more speed)

      Same D pairs.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I would still like to see Janko Center Tkachuk and Neil but he really struggled last game with his face offs and Peters seems to like having more than one center on the ice.

    I often wonder what kind of winger Janko would be if someone could get him the puck. Suddenly he becomes a shooter if Dube can center the 4 th line. He needs to be more selfish and use his shot.

  • Korcan

    Dube could be a great compliment to Bennett and Jankowski, but with his defensive awareness, i wonder if he might be a good fit with Backs, thus freeing up Tkachuk to play a more offensive role. For example:

    Gaudreau / Monahan / Neal
    Tkachuk / Lindholm / Czarnik(?)
    Dube / Backlund / Ryan
    Bennett / Jankowski / Frolik    

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Little perspective here. Dube has been super but at the end of the day his lights-out showings have been against teenagers and bushers from one of the worst orgs in pro hockey.

    I wish the kid all the best but it’s way too early to suggest he might make the final roster when ALL the competition he needs to beat is in China.

    • Korcan

      That is true to an extent, but the general consensus leading up to camp was that Mangiapane had the best chance of winning that final roster spot over Lazar, Hathaway, Klimchuk, et.al, and he has been playing in the same games against the same competition as Dube with far less impressive outings (though he looked pretty good this last game). At this point, Hathaway is the only one who appears to be a serious threat. We’ll see how Lazar and Klimchuk do tonight, and I’m hoping Klimchuk looks great, but I’m not holding my breath.

      • everton fc

        I wasn’t in the camp that thought Mangiapane was ahead of anyone. Dube’s done well thus far, and faired well last camp. He’ll be a Flame in Calgary soon enough. I bet he’s the first call up, and never heads back. He’d be a dangerous wing.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Dube is the ultimate team player and a leader to the core. I’ll be the first one ti eat crow and say that Dube is better than Mangi. That clearly showed. Dube skated up to the referee after his first goal to tell him that Buddy tipped his goal in and should be his goal. Respect!

  • Korcan

    Comparisons have been made of Dube and Tampa’s Point, and i can see it, though I don’t think he has Point’s offensive ceiling (still, one can hope). Another young NHLer he reminds me of is Philadelphia’s Konecny. Again, I’m not sure Dube has the same offensive ceiling, but they have similar size, style of game, and leadership intangibles. If he can be close to those guys I think Flame’s brass will be thrilled.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Those are both good comparisons and I am in the same camp on Dube’s offensive ceiling. However, Dube is making a believer of me. At some point we have to stop saying, “ yah sure he can score against other NHL prospects and yah he can score against AHL scrubs”. The truth is his scoring is a bonus, what is more impressive is how he can drive any line that he has been put on irrespective of the talent…. like Johnny did when he was at his first camp.

      Equally impressive is his demeanour when he scores, like he has done it a thousand times. He is smaller than I thought but in a stocky Crosbyesque body that is hard to knock off the puck.

      As stated my money was on Mangi to win the spot but now I am not so sure. Dube has that X-factor. I am not sure if Point would have the same offence if he was on the Flames but he is a great player. The Oiler commentators were oozing over Dube comparing him to a Parise….wouldn’t that be nice. I am excited to see Mangi up his game now that the gauntlet has been thrown down.

    • oilcanboyd

      from nhl.com/flames
      “The Flames have confirmed they will make lineup changes ahead of Game Two, with Mike Smith slated to get his first start of the pre-season and Curtis Lazar, Anthony Peluso, Morgan Klimchuk, Rasmus Andersson, and Dalton Prout making their China debuts.
      Calgary head coach Bill Peters has yet to finalize who will sit this evening as the team is waiting on an update on Matthew Tkachuk. The winger took a spill in practice on Tuesday and his status for the game will be determined after the morning skate.”

  • DoooieStevens

    The commentors on this site are nothing but entertainment. Last week talking about how great Rittich is going to be and how bad Gillies was. Well Rittich looked horrible against an ECHL/AHL team. Also, Dube has looked good so far, but quit trying to give him a spot on the Flames. Let him play with NHL players and against NHL competition first. Posters on here saying he could replace Bennett as center. Time will tell.