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Coming off first multi-point NHL game, Dillon Dube is confident, focused, and finding success as he continues to develop his game

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

DENVER - The taste he got last year only fuelled the embers of a promising pro start. 

Now, he's doing everything possible to make the ride last.

Full time. 

"Last year, it felt like the games were going at 100 miles per hour," Dillon Dube said following Monday's morning skate, ahead of tonight's tilt with the Avalanche. "I'd sit down and it would feel like the game would already be over. 


Video: "It's been a lot of fun playing with them."


"I couldn't process it. 

"Now, I feel like I belong. And it's awesome."

Dube has goals in three of his last five games, and is a point-per-game player in that span, too, after going his first four without a mark on the scoresheet. 

Compare and contrast that to last year when he five all season in 25 NHL tilts.

Development, though, isn't always linear. 

Here was a player, fresh out of junior, making The Show in his first year as a full-time pro. 

It wasn't easy, nor was it smooth, but the tools were there, knocking in the background. 

"He looks like a National Hockey League player now," beamed interim head coach Geoff Ward when asked about Dube's development curve. 

"I've said it a lot - I think the guys in the American League have done a really good job with him. … Anytime that you work hard and play with structure, you give your skill a chance to come out, and he's doing those two things. 

"He's working hard and playing with structure - much thanks to those guys in the American Hockey League. As a result, now, we're starting to see his skill come out. Those are the two main things for me that have really turned his game around."

In Saturday's win over the LA Kings, Dube had his first multi-point game of his NHL career, fired two shots (on six attempts), had one takeaway, and even delivered a couple of hits in 14:11 of ice time.



It was the continuation of a nice run that began when Dube was recalled from the Stockton Heat on Nov. 17. Since then, he's formed a pair with rugged winger Milan Lucic, and both agree the partnership has had mutual benefits. 

"Ever since we were put together - that very first time - it clicked right away," Dube said. "I was keeping it pretty simple. I was trying to make more plays than I was ready for, honestly, but slowly, we started to make those plays you're seeing more of now. 

"We're not super flashy, but they come from creating plays off the rush, working the puck hard down low - all the little things you need to do to have success in this league.

"Playing with those guys (Lucic and Derek Ryan) has been huge for me, because they have so much to offer, so much experience, and they play the right way. The details are important for me to learn and get better at, and I can learn a lot from them."

As a duo, they've been nothing short of exceptional. Dube, a second-year pro, and Lucic, a vet of more than 900 career games, have been driving the play offensively with a 52.04% possession rate, and out-scoring their opponents 5-3 at evens in the process.

Most impressively, they've done so with only a 43.08% offensive zone-start percentage, meaning the bulk of their shifts have begun in the defensive end of the rink. 

No gravy work, here. 

They've had to earn their opportunities. 

"It's all about confidence," Dube said. "I'm trying to build on that, game by game, and trying to take a step in my development every time I'm on the ice. 

"When you get rewarded for all the hard work you're putting in, there's no better feeling."

When Lucic got his first goal of the season - a return-feed tap-in on Thursday against Buffalo - Dube was right there alongside him, savouring the moment with screams of elation and grabbing this linemate in a great, big bear hug. 

"I usually don't celebrate too much," Dube laughed. "That's me at my best, clearly."

Joking aside, that goal would not have been possible without Dube's work off the rush. He used his speed to back the defenceman off before dropping the puck back to Lucic in the trailing position. 

While this line usually grinds away in the dirty areas, this was definitely one of their "prettier moments" - a highlight-reel tally to give the Flames a commanding third-period lead. 

"We're dialled in," Dube said. "When you're locked into the system and creating space for each other, that's when you know things are going well as a line."

The NHL, obviously, remained the pinnacle of his off-season goal-setting, but Dube never pressured himself into believing it was that or bust. 

At 21, he recognized that his minor-league stint last year was the best thing for him. 

If he started the year again down in Stockton, Calif., so be it. 

He just wanted to take his game to the next level.

It certainly seems now that patience (and persistence) has paid off.

Dube will again start on a line with Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund tonight, but don't be surprised if he and Lucic are reunited at some point, as they have been the past two nights. 

It is, after all, an ace in the pocket of the coaching staff. 

"The way we're going as a team right now, we all feel comfortable playing with anybody," Dube said. "That's the sign of a good team. 

"And, personally…

"A sign, maybe, that I'm taking the next step."

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