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Dillon Dube may have forgotten his good pair of skates at home, but that didn't matter. He showed he's more than ready for the new season to start

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Better prep the cold tub.

Sure, it's not even Labour Day and main camp is still a few weeks out, but Dillon Dube only knows one speed.

Regardless of the footwear.

"My feet are KILLING me right now," the sophomore forward said, wincing, as he took a seat near the Flames dressing room. "Seriously… brutal."

The 21-year-old left his "good" pair of skates at home in Cochrane.

Enter the reserve set, found somewhere in the back, under the cobwebs and a rumpled stack of old DVDs.

Banged up, blackened and, it seems, a bit too small.


"They're like a year old," Dube said with a chuckle. "New gloves, too. I guess you can't really knock ALL the rust off until camp starts, anyway."

Coulda fooled us.

In what became custom at the Scotiabank Saddledome last year, and later with the Flames' AHL affiliate in Stockton, Calif., Dube was - true to the form - the last one on the ice during an informal skate Thursday, finishing off a nearly two-hour session with an exhausting series of one-timers that put those gnarly old wheels to the test.

Dube, naturally, has a keen eye on the roster. He knows the work that's ahead of him, but sees an opening to stick, full-time.

Which is why the visual of Thursday's grind spoke to the kind of athlete (and personality) the Flames are dealing with, and why the likelihood of another standout camp from the young pivot is all but certain.

"When I came in last year, I was probably the only one who thought I could make it out of camp," Dube said. "I definitely had that belief in myself.

"Honestly, looking back on it, I was probably lying a little bit to myself, that I could actually make the team. But this year, I definitely feel more confident that I can do it again and this time, be here from start to finish and have an impact, start to finish.

"That's the goal."

Dube earned a spot on the 23-man roster after tearing up the pre-season, scoring a team-leading four goals and adding a pair of helpers in all seven exhibition contests.

By December, he'd gotten a small taste of the bigs, but was then sharpening the saw with the minor-league Heat.

Recalled twice more to the big club, Dube finished the year with five points (1G, 4A) in 25 NHL games, but an impressive 39 points (15G, 24A) in 37 AHL tilts.

Turns out, he says, the time down south was the best thing for him.


Video: Dube gives the Flames a 1-0 lead with a great shot


"The biggest takeaway was the confidence it gave me going into the summer," Dube said. "When you have a year like that, your first year which is really exciting, but you're not putting up too many points and you're sitting a lot, you could head into the summer feeling a little down on yourself.

"I don't think I would have because I understood the situation, but to get that opportunity in Stockton - handle the puck a bit more, play in different situations and get rewarded with some points - it's a pretty good feeling going into the off-season.

"I felt like a completely different player when I came back up. To be down there with that staff and all the guys, it was awesome.

"I don't think I'd be as ready coming into camp this year if I didn't have that experience down in Stockton last year."

Dube, though, isn't putting too much pressure on himself.

It's not Calgary or bust.

He knows the makeup of the roster is a bit different this year - the departure of Garnet Hathaway, for example, has opened a spot at forward - but he recognizes the big picture and is eager to take another step this year, wherever that may be.

"My goal - as it has been every year - is to take a step," he said. "That's what I've done every year since I was 18. If I make the team, great. If it is Stockton, then I'm going to try and take another step in my game there, too.

"Every year you come into camp and feel that pressure, and most of it is what you pile on yourself.

"I'm not doing that this year.

"Sure, there are nerves. Always are. But I feel ready, and this is the best shape I've ever been in coming into a camp, and that's all you can ask."

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