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Dube making most of chance to impress brass and enjoying every moment while he's doing it

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Yes, Dillon Dube was fully aware of flashing so much enamel that any residual glare glinting off the overhead arena lights might've been distracting some of the paid patrons.

That grin, he knew, must've seemed more insistent than Heath Ledger's Why-So-Seriousssssss? turn as the Joker.

Couldn't help himself. 

Hey, no apologies needed.

"I know it's just exhibition for the vets,'' acknowledged the Cochrane-reared kid of Monday's eye-catching audition in the southern end of the annual September split-squad doubleheader at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"Old hat. Nothing special. For me, this is where it all starts. So cool playing in a packed building in pre-season.

"And this building.

"I came to so many games here as a fan.

"When the puck dropped, sitting on the bench, I was just smiling away.

"Actually, couldn't stop smiling.

"Guys were probably wondering what was the matter with me. Probably looked like I was still up in the stands.

"But I had to snap out of it, pull myself together and realize I was playing."

Didn't play half bad under the circumstances, either.

When the Flames whittled their training-camp roster down by 21 only 16 or so hours later, lopping outright or re-assigning to either AHL Stockton or junior ports of call, Dube's name was not on that list.

He'd shown enough, created enough curiosity, to warrant at least a second peek.

Initial objective met.

The year just passed, of course, turned into a head-spinning whirlwind for the Kelowna Rockets' flagship left-winger. Being drafted by the Flames in 2016 kicked it all off, followed by a star turn at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, then an unfortunate injury during his first-ever NHL exhibition tilt, sidelining him over the first month of the WHL season.

There followed a one-game look-see at AHL playoff time with the Stockton Heat after the Rockets had been eliminated from the post-season. The year was highlighted, naturally, by a world junior gold-medal game appearance with Canada at the Montreal/Toronto-hosted championships.

Enough to take a fella's breath away.

Monday, Dube's licketysplit, verve and playmaking ability - an assist on Mark Jankowski's late goal filed as Exhibit A - stood out against the Oilers.

"He was good,'' praised head coach Glen Gulutzan following the 5-4 loss. "Great skater. I thought he made some things happen. He got caught a little bit, all these penalties. I thought he made the most of his shifts when he got them because we were running our powerplay units."

The stop-start, restricted-flow was, Dube conceded, difficult to process.

"It was tough with the limited ice time. I don't expect to be on the powerplay or anything so I just tried to make the most of every shift I had.

"Obviously it was the first game of the year with that new rule. They have to call it, the (slashing) was getting crazy, but things settled down and started rolling towards the end.

"When I got out there I just did my best. As easy as that sounds, it was tough.

"I felt I kinda battled my way through the game. As I said, I think it got better for me as it went along.

"I did my best. That's all you can do and hope they like what they see.

"To be able to play in front of my family is pretty surreal."

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