You win some, you lose some.
That’s the way some Calgary Flames fans are looking at the last of the team’s moves ahead of the start of the new NHL season this week.
The loss came when it was determined Dillon Dube would be returned to the American Hockey League after an inconsistent training camp.
Considering he started with a shot on the top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, it was a long fall for the 21-year-old top prospect. But the truth is, the move was the right thing to do for both the team and the player — fan grumblings aside. A team that finished second in the league and first in the Western Conference last year on the strengths of their top two lines isn’t going to mess with that chemistry just to find a place for a prospect who probably doesn’t fit on any of the special teams units at this point, and wouldn’t benefit much from 10 or 12 minutes a night when he could play 20 and in all situations in the minors.
Also keep in mind that Dube is a centre, and those are important commodities to develop. Yes, he is versatile enough to play either wing, but where his long-term value is with the Flames is in the middle. Everyone’s favourite weak link at the position, Mark Jankowski, could be entering his last season with Calgary. Derek Ryan’s contract will be up at the end of next season. Playing Dube as a utility man fighting for the 11th, 12th and 13th spot on the NHL roster will only limit his ability to become a centre — which we saw happen with Sam Bennett.
Dube is extremely talented. That’s a fact. Not unlike Gaudreau, the diminutive stature at 5-ft-11 and 187 lb. doesn’t hinder him offensively. He’s unquestionably a top-nine talent as a floor in the NHL. Where things went south and led to Stockton was Dube’s play without the puck. A common theme in nearly every offensively gifted prospect’s path to the NHL. He was called out by head coach Bill Peters last week and will work on the quote/unquote details of his game before inevitably being called up for a stint or two with the Flames when injuries occur.
“He’s a young player who is knocking on the door and could quite easily be here today,” GM Brad Treliving told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s physically stronger. His game is more mature. There’s always some things to work on, but he’s certainly knocking on the door. We’ll be seeing Dillon again before too long.”
It might feel or look like a loss at the moment, but it will make him a better and hungrier player when he comes back — just ask Andrew Mangiapane, who can now be considered a full-time NHLer after working his way back from the AHL last season.
Meanwhile, the final cuts include one very noticeable win for another prospect.
Defenceman Oliver Kylington’s spot in the lineup was secured when the Flames officially released Andrew MacDonald from his PTO on Tuesday morning.
Later, Peters announced to the gathered media members that Kylington and Rasmus Andersson would form the third pairing on the back end in Thursday’s season opener in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. Ensuing reports of delighted screams and happy dances at offices and basements across the city of Calgary. The young duo was far from a lock as the Flames discussed potential contracts with the more experienced MacDonald right down to the wire.
In the end, the team decided that for all his inexperience and potential to make mistakes was outweighed by his raw potential. Made possible by the unfortunate Juuso Valimaki injury, Kylington is on familiar ground. He was called up last year when Valimaki was injured and spent the majority of his 38 games alongside Andersson. An injury of his own in February limited his time to 38 games but he showed he was capable of contributing with three goals and a handful of assists in his limited role.
In camp, he outlasted MacDonald and another PTO challenger in Eric Gryba, as well as Brandon Davidson. He also beat out Michael Stone, who will be the team’s seventh defenceman after being re-signed following his buyout.
“There are certainly some areas of growth there (for Kylington), but it seems like Oliver’s been around forever for a guy of his age,” Treliving said. “The ability to move a puck, I think his game has matured. His ability to defend has probably been the biggest growth for him.”
When Dube achieves the same growth, he’ll be back.
Probably to stay.