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Young prospects Dube and Valimaki impressed at camp - GM proud of Poirier

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

They'll be back.

Young, skilled, brimming with such rich possibilities. For Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki, the future looks as bright, as blue, as the limitless Alberta horizon on a sunny day.

"Those two young guys,'' adjudged Flames' GM Brad Treliving on cut-down day down at the Scotiabank Saddledome, "have been really, really impressive.

"They stuck around as long as they did on merit."

Both Dube, in his second whirl at a pro training camp, and Valimaki, in his first, were certainly eye-catching over the past two weeks.

Dube, the 19-year-old centre, is returning to the Kelowna Rockets, Valimaki, the 18-year-old defenceman, to the Tri-City Americans, among the 10 players re-assigned Tuesday by the team.

They head back buoyed by the self-belief that neither is that far from making the quantum leap from the junior ranks to pro.

"Their challenge - and sometimes it's even more difficult than the one facing players heading down to the AHL - is not going back to junior, after playing so well at pro camp, and thinking it's going to be easy,'' cautioned Treliving.

"It's never easy."

Valimaki's decision-making and puck-handling from the back end, as well as Dube's offensive dynamism, were two of the highlights of camp.

"To get junior players to make it three games left (in pre-season) two games left, to be here that long, tells you a lot about their potential.

"This is pro hockey. We're not in the habit of handing out favours.

"So they've been earned. Very positive."

Among the others re-assigned, Emile Poirier is heading back to the AHL with a refreshed attitude and re-focused commitment to the game. During camp, he went public about a battle with alcohol that had affected his career. After being a healthy scratch on many nights in Stockton he took a personal leave of absence a year ago.

At 22, the skill level displayed at the junior level that prompted the Flames to select him 22nd overall at the 2013 Entry Draft, can hopefully be rekindled.

"I'm a new person. A new player,'' Poirier said Tuesday before exiting en route to California.

"It's a fresh start. I'm excited to get going and prove I can be back here.

"I did my best. I played hard. And I'm going to keep going now, one day at a time. It's frustrating today, at least for a couple hours, but tomorrow you've got to come back stronger and be as good a player you possibly can.

"Any place I am I'll try to be better."

For Treliving, that aim has never seemed more possible.

"We're proud of what he's done,'' said the GM. "Because when you're off-ice isn't in order, you're on-ice has no chance.

"He's given his on-ice a chance.

"Now we've got to re-build the game. I think he showed some glimpses in camp. It's been tough for him, he got hurt in the first game, so now you're coming from behind. You've missed three or four days and now you're chasing it.

"So our message to him was: Go down to Stockton, with the plan we've given him, and be really good. That doesn't only mean producing. Be really good in practice, really good working at your game, really good in studying the game.

"But I can say, since I've been here, he's so receptive, for the first time in sending him down I think he's really given himself a chance to get back."


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