Seven Rockets to NHL rookie camps

WHL club expects pro atmosphere to benefit players upon their return to Kelowna next week

Calgary Flames' draft pick Dillon Dube will be in Penticton this weekend for the Young Stars Classic.

The initial elation of being selected by the Calgary Flames may have subsided, but it doesn’t make Dillon Dube’s first ever National Hockey League training camp any less important.

The 18-year-old centre is one of seven Kelowna Rockets who are dispersing to various parts of North America this week to attend NHL rookie camps.

Dube, a second-round pick, 48th overall this summer, will be in Penticton with the Flames’ prospects this weekend for the Young Stars’ Classic.

The Calgary rookies will play Winnipeg on Friday, Edmonton on Saturday, and the Canucks’ young stars on Monday.

“Finally putting on the actual jersey, playing against the other team’s best prospects, it’s a step closer to where you want to be,” said Dube, who had 66 points in 65 WHL games last season. “The main thing is to make a good impression, make it hard for them to send you back.

“Realistically, I know I’m coming back to (junior), so I just want to make the most out of the experience and bring those things back to Kelowna.”

One other Rocket, forward Tomas Soustal, a free agent invitee, will be in Penticton this weekend with the Edmonton Oilers’ prospects.

Other Kelowna players at rookie camps this week are Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota) and Gordie Ballhorn (Dallas).

Two 20-year-old players, Rourke Chartier (San Jose) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville), are also at NHL camps, but are both expected to make the jump to pro this season.

As for those Rockets returning to Kelowna, assistant coach Kris Mallette expects all to be better from the experience.

“You want your guys to learn about the work ethic and how hard it is to play at that level…the speed, the pace of the game,” say Mallette. “It’s good for them to go through that process. You want them to learn from competition against some pretty good players, bring that back here to our team and teach our younger guys.”

The majority, if not all seven players, are expected back with the Rockets next week in time for the club’s season opener.

Kelowna will be in Kamloops on Friday, Sept. 23, before hosting the Blazers the following night, Sept. 24, at Prospera Place.

The Rockets will close out their preseason this Friday at home to the Vancouver Giants. Face off at Prospera Place is 7 p.m.