The Calgary Flames have built their forward lines primarily through the first round. But 2016 second round pick Dillon Dube may have something to say about that.
When we last checked in
Looking to build off of an injury ravaged draft + 1 season, Dube made the most of his final WHL season, becoming the focal point of the Kelowna Rockets. He was also trusted to do the same for Team Canada at the World Juniors, captaining the country to a gold medal. Really, the only low point was a disappointing playoff exit, but that criticism can apply to the entire Rockets team.
His season was so good that it raised a question rarely asked of Flames’ CHL prospects: could he make the NHL team next season?
Good news: he did!
Bad news: it didn’t go very well. His first shift seemed to sum up his entire 2018-19 NHL experience, as he got rocked by Vancouver’s Erik Gudbranson at centre ice during his first skate. A few games later, he left a game after blocking a Roman Josi shot. A month after that, he lasted 14 seconds before Duncan Keith slammed him into the boards, putting Dube in concussion protocol.
Dube was sent down in early January. Partially because the NHL wasn’t too kind to him, but he also struggled to earn the coach’s trust, usually playing around 10-12 minutes per night. Towards the end of his NHL stint, he was frequently seeing less than nine minutes per night. He didn’t really make any impact one way or the other, and it was hard to justify him playing up the lineup when he couldn’t get much going in the bottom six. Everyone agreed that he would benefit from the minor leagues.
In the AHL, he immediately stepped in and became a contributor to a desperate Heat team. Whether it was the greater opportunity or the weaker opposition, Dube ran roughshod over the AHL during his half-ish season there, winning the AHL’s player of the week in early March for an inspired seven point performance over three games, and won the Stockton Heat’s team award for Rookie of the Year.
Dube returned to the NHL for the season finale and didn’t see any playoff action.
Numbers & Growth
|League||GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points||NHLe|
Well the numbers kind of say it all: he’s good.
Dube did a pretty rare thing, carrying over his production from the WHL to the AHL, at least by NHLe terms. Generally, prospects see a decrease in numbers when they move from junior to the pros; Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Phillips went from 100 point superstars to mere mortals when they made the jump, for example. It’s a lot easier to rack up points against 16-19 year olds in junior than it is against 20-25 (or older) pro-seasoned players. Dube didn’t, a testament to just how well he adapted to the next level of hockey. His ability to generate primary points and 5v5 points also carried over, which is a strong indicator of where he’s going in the future.
His impact on the Heat can’t be understated either. Dube recorded points on 30% of goals, both at 5v5 and all situations. That lead the entire team, even beating out team leader Alan Quine by a percentage point. The only other prospect who came close to Dube in that department was Oliver Kylington at 22% (maybe a sad reflection of the Heat).
The only thing lacking is his NHL time, where he was mostly reduced to an afterthought. Dube finished the season with the worst possession stats on the Flames, a 46.31CF% at 5v5, and was frequently found sitting on the bench when games were tight. He didn’t do that much out there, and accordingly wasn’t trusted with tougher assignments.
And that’s fine. Dube may not have been as ready as people thought he was in the preseason, but his AHL performances suggest that he’s very close to actually hitting that next level.
If history is any indication, we can expect Dube to have a solid NHL career.
Since 2005-06, only 23 players have scored at the same rate as Dube as 20 year olds in the AHL. Of those 23, 20 made the NHL, a rate of 86.96%. The list of players with similar production ranges from Claude Giroux to Markus Granlund, so there’s a pretty wide range of what those players turn out to be, but on average, they were good to score about 0.56 points per game, or about 45 points per 82 games.
You can pencil Dube in for an NHL spot next season. It’s hard to see what good another season of AHL hockey will do for him, and with most of the prospect competition far behind him, an NHL spot is his for the taking.
I think he’ll start on the fourth line to begin the year, at the very least. Where he goes from there is anyone’s guess. He might spend a year with the grinders, learning about the NHL from the most sheltered spot to do so. Maybe he does emerge as a middle six winger option that can play special teams. There’s still a lot of potential in him and it’s exciting to see what he can do with it.
Whatever happens with Dube next season, you can likely bet that he’s going to be a permanent fixture in the Flames lineup for this season and many to come.
Matthew Phillips | Tyler Parsons | Adam Ollas Mattson & Rinat Valiev | Josh Healey & Andrew Nielsen | ECHLers | Martin Pospisil | Emilio Pettersen | Demetrios Koumontzis | Dmitry Zavgorodniy | Adam Ruzicka | Milos Roman | D’Artagnan Joly | Eetu Tuulola | Linus Lindstrom | Filip Sveningsson | Pavel Karnukhov, Rushan Rafikov, Mitchell Mattson