One shouldn’t be at all surprised if Dillon Dube of the Kelowna Rockets might occasionally feel like he has been a little spoiled since his arrival in the WHL. After all, a trip to the Memorial Cup as a 16-year-old rookie is a heckuva way to kick off a career in major junior hockey.
Much has already happened along Dube’s roadmap of hockey, yet he is still nearly six months shy of his 18th birthday. From his minor hockey days in the Rocky Mountain community of Golden, BC, then in Cochrane, AB, and now in his current hockey home in Kelowna, BC, there was another significant stop along the way.
While he calls Cochrane his home these days, a community located a short drive west from Calgary, much of his formative hockey education took place in the tiny but well-known town of Wilcox, SK. About 30 minutes southeast of Regina, the community is the home of Notre Dame College, the storied facility that has made a habit of contributing to the development of many current and former NHL players. To name a few, consider Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind’Amour.
The Rockets made Dube their first round selection, 21st overall, at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Prior to joining the Rockets, Dube spent a productive season with the Notre Dame Argos in the Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League. He scored 26 goals and 50 assists in 56 regular season and playoff games.
When he entered the WHL last season, Dube experienced an up-and-down rookie campaign as a 16-year-old, impressing the Rockets in training camp before being sidelined by injury. His return lasted only a couple of games before another injury put him back in the stands. It was a time of extreme highs and lows for Dube, as he was also unable to play in the 2014 World U17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia, ON. It is during a time like that where doubts could creep in, especially when his club team was enjoying huge success.
But Dube is quick to credit then Rockets’ head coach Dan Lambert, who is now with the Buffalo Sabres, for giving him the opportunity to jump back into the lineup when his health was restored.
“I was happy that Dan gave me a chance to play,” Dube said. “I know lots of 16-year-olds never get a chance to prove themselves and I feel like I had a short season last year with my injuries, but he did everything he could to get me in the lineup.”
Dube responded to Lambert’s vote of confidence with a solid rookie campaign. On a team that was able to boast high-octane forwards like Rourke Chartier (SJS) and Nick Merkley (ARI), and was further aided by the acquisition of Leon Draisaitl (EDM) at the WHL trade deadline, one could not fault Dube if he was simply watching in awe on most nights. But often times, it was Dube making the kinds of plays offensively that created valuable depth scoring, as he collected 17 goals and 10 assists in 45 games. During the Rockets run to the Memorial Cup, he chipped in with five goals and six assists in 18 games.
During the offseason, Dube was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament where he contributed a goal and two assists in five games.
During the current campaign, Dube has been a stellar offensive contributor in Kelowna, scoring 21 goals and 30 assists in 48 games this season. He plays with Tyson Baillie, a 20-year-old who went undrafted but is among the WHL scoring leaders this season, and Kole Lind (2017), a 16-year-old forward who is one of the league’s top rookie scorers.
“We have a lot of chemistry,” Dube said of Baillie, his linemate for most of last season as well. “And Kole is a really offensive guy. It’s nice to play with him. He’s got lots of confidence.”
However, there was another brief setback when he was injured in a game against the Portland Winterhawks in early November. He was unable to participate in the CHL Canada Russia Series games with Team WHL. But a silver lining of sorts materialized when he was named to Team Cherry for the 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver.
Dube arrived at the TPG as the 35th-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. The players were kept busy on and off the ice in Vancouver with some rigorous testing, where Dube excelled in some of the skating drills. But he admitted to HF that it was difficult to make a huge impact during the game.
“I’ve done a little bit of that at a summer camp,” Dube said when asked if he had previously experienced the on-and off-ice testing. “It’s huge for us to see, for me to master the skating. The fans don’t see it. The testing is a really big part of it.”
CSS describes the 5’10”, 175 pound Dube as a “strong skater with good straight away speed. He plays an effective puck protection game and a very responsible two-way game. Good hockey sense to contribute offensively, very good playmaking ability and good finishing shot. He is willing to give-and-take in physical play.”
Hockey’s Future spoke with Dube recently, with his comments being captured in this HF podcast.
Follow Glen Erickson on Twitter via @glenerickson51