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Dubuc's scoring touch gets him noticed

by Brian Compton
Michael Dubuc was so upset when he was passed up in the Entry Draft, the Granby, Quebec, native actually contemplated hanging up the blades.

But he didn't. He decided to keep trucking along.

Good call.

After being noticed by the Washington Capitals during a free-agent camp last summer, Dubuc was signed to a minor-league deal. The 6-foot-2, 177-pound left wing is off to a phenomenal start with the South Carolina Stingrays, as he leads the club with 20 goals in just 26 games.

"I was kind of surprised at how things were going at first," Dubuc told "I didn't know what to expect at all from the ECHL. My agent told me it was a good league and that I could move up faster rather than going back to junior for another year. I'm really progressing a lot more and I'm really surprised with my season right now."

Dubuc's last two seasons in junior hockey were nothing short of sensational, as he scored 83 goals in 140 regular-season games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In the 2008 playoffs, Dubuc scored 17 times in 17 contests.

Not bad.

"You never know why or why they don't draft guys," Stingrays coach Jared Bednar said. "Look at his stats last year. He had 44 regular-season goals, and then he had 17 in 17 playoff games. He can score in bunches. He had a four-goal game a few weeks ago. There's a select few guys who have his touch around the net."

For whatever reason, though, Dubuc's name was never called at the podium by an NHL general manager. Instead, he had to showcase his skills against several other players in the same boat. Fortunately, the Capitals took notice.

"It was kind of disappointing, because I was playing well in juniors and I didn't have the chance to get drafted," Dubuc said. "It was hard to get that motivation to keep going. Washington called me, and I knew I couldn't miss that chance. I just hope things keep going like this for the rest of the year."

In the first half of the season, Dubuc -- despite fighting a nagging shoulder injury -- has been one of South Carolina's most reliable and consistent offensive players. His 37 points trails only Travis Morin (44) for the team lead.

"To be honest, he's been playing hurt for a lot of (the season)," Bednar said. He's hampered with a bit of a sore shoulder that's kind of had him in and out of our lineup. But he certainly has a knack of scoring goals, that's for sure."

Their strong affiliation with the Capitals and Hershey usually translates into constant roster movement for the Stingrays. But the promotions to the AHL mean added ice time for Dubuc, who has certainly made the most of the opportunities that Bednar has given him.

While that means more responsibility for the 20-year-old, Bednar doesn't believe he's placed added pressure on the rookie to produce offensively.

"I don't really put too much pressure on any of my guys offensively," Bednar said. "I feel that we have the talent to put up decent numbers offensively. I'm a defensive guy. In the systems that we play, if he comes back hard, he's a better player defensively. I don't really put the heat on my guys to produce offensively. I just expect them to work hard defensively, and I know that other stuff just kind of comes naturally to him."

So far, things have worked out. Sure, it's a lot of responsibility for a rookie to carry, but the fact that Dubuc has handled everything thrown his way will likely open some eyes throughout the organization.

"I've never really faced this situation, but I try not to focus on that," Dubuc said. "I just try to have fun on the ice and play the game. Usually when you do that, things will go well.

"I'm just trying hard every day to help the team win. There's a lot of guys called up lately, so I have a lot of ice time. Every time I'm on the ice, I'm trying to do the best I can to help the team to win."

His early season play earned him a brief stint with Hershey, where Dubuc was held scoreless in three games. However, his ice time wasn't nearly the amount Bednar had been giving him in South Carolina.
"You never know why or why they don't draft guys. Look at his stats last year. He had 44 regular-season goals, and then he had 17 in 17 playoff games. He can score in bunches." -- Stingrays coach Jared Bednar on Michael Dubuc
"It's different," Dubuc said of the AHL. "It changes a lot when you get called up. You're on the third or fourth line and play like three shifts a period. You can't change the game by yourself, because you don't play on the power play or penalty kill. You try to do the best that you can when you're out there. It was a great experience. They have a very good team this year. I hope the best for them, but right now I'm just trying to focus on South Carolina."

At the very least, the cup of coffee at the Triple-A level provided Dubuc an opportunity to see just how much faster the game is in the AHL. That's why he's working hard in the ECHL to work on his skating, as well as strength and conditioning.

"There's always something to work on," Dubuc said. "The game in the AHL is not the same as the ECHL at all. The game is way faster. That's why I'm trying to improve my speed. My decisions with the puck have got to be quicker and smarter. That's what I'm trying to work on right now." 

Sounds like a plan, especially since it appears he already knows how to score goals -- something that can't be taught.

"Where most players wouldn't even get shots off, he manages to score goals," Bednar said. "He has more velocity that you think he could possibly get on it -- forehand and backhand. I certainly think he can play at the American League level."

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