Dillon Dube was under no illusions he’d be starting his pro hockey career this season.
That made for a much softer landing when the 19-year-old forward was returned to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets this week by the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
“It was the right decision, obviously I would have liked to stay there a little longer, but I knew I was going to come back to Kelowna,” Dube said Wednesday at Prospera Place. “But I think it’s the right time to come back, I didn’t want be away from everybody too long.
“It’s great, nice to be coming back to a good team, hopefully I can create a little more energy, a little more offense for them and hopefully make a big run for it this year.”
For Dube, a second-round draft pick of the Flames in 2016, it was his second camp with the NHL club. The Cochrane, AB native earned plenty of positive reviews for his play and is forecast to be a key player in the organization for years to come.
But for now, Dube is firmly focused on his goals for the 2017-18 season—helping the Rockets win.
“For me this year, it’s all team goals,” said Dube, who was appointed one of the Rockets’ three alternate captains this season. “It’s my last kick at the can and I want to win. Obviously, we’ve had a great start so far, and I haven’t been able to watch them or been around much at camp. I’ve talked to lots of guys and we’re looking really good right now.”
In an injury-abbreviated 2016-17 WHL season shortened to just 40 games, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward still found a way to pile up 55 points.
Rockets’ head coach Jason Smith, for one, is excited to see what stronger, savvier Dube will bring to the club this season, both on and off the ice.
“It’s exciting any time you add a player of Dillon’s calibre,” said Smith. “He’s going to be a key offensive player for us, and he’s made large improvements in his all-around game.
“Dillon’s a great character guy, he brings energy to the rink, he has fun on the ice and has a real positive vibe,” Smith added. “You’re not only adding an elite player but a quality person.”
In addition to be committed to helping the Rockets win in 2017-18, Dube has one specific personal goal in mind—making the Canadian junior team’s roster for the second year in a row.
“It’s nice being a returner but there’s so many good kids in Canada that can easily take your spot,” said Dube,” so I gotta be in there and take it as a trial like I did last year and do whatever I can to make the team.”
Dube will make his season debut with the Rockets (2-0-0-) Friday at home to the Everett Silvertips. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.