Talented, skilled players who fall in the draft because of their size are not a new phenomenon, and it looks like this year’s draft may follow the script. Dillon Dube, 17 year old left-shooting center for the Kelowna Rockets, is a highly skilled forward with terrific hockey sense who likely won’t be taken before some time in the second round, due in part to the fact that he’s 5’10” and 180 pounds.
As Kelowna is stacked offensively, he doesn’t have to play top minutes, but Dube has still managed impressive offensive production this season. He racked up 66 points (26 goals, 40 assists) in 65 games during the regular season up from 26 points (17 goals, 10 assists) in 45 games last season. Dube also has three points (one goal, two assists) in four playoff games for Kelowna so far.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that 53 of his 66 regular season points are primary points, putting him at 0.81 primary points per game. According to WHLStats.ca, almost 70 percent of his total points are coming at even strength. Both of these are excellent signs of his future ability, because they point to him being a legitimate offensive producer—something teams are obviously looking for in potential prospects.
Iain Morrell at McKeen’s waxed poetic about Dube’s skating:
“Excellent fluid skater – light on his feet with great flow to his footwork, turns, transition sequences. Skating is both quick and fast; pivots, lateral skating exceptional. He is arguably among the fastest in his draft class. Quick off the hop – the swiftness of his first few strides is a trait he takes advantage of to create space.”
He is a skilled playmaker with excellent vision, able to see his options on the ice and make a creative play. Morrell notes that Dube is particularly good at deceiving opponents when it comes to what play, exactly, it is that he’s going to choose.
Dube’s play away from the puck is also promising. He has good instincts when it comes to reading a play, and can get his stick on the puck even in situations where someone with his frame shouldn’t be able to do so. He elongates his body, essentially managing a bigger reach than he should have, which is a huge bonus for a guy his size. It’s a way to make up for his size in moments where it might be considered a deficit.
Central Scouting ranked Dube 35th at midterm, with ISS ranking him 29 and TSN’s Craig Button slotting him in at 17. He has drawn comparisons to teammate Nick Merkley, as well as Flyers prospect Travis Konecny.
The NHL team that drafts him will likely want him to build up his strength, as there is always concern that smaller players will be muscled off the puck or outplayed physically in other ways. His size, however, isn’t a reason not to take a chance. After all, how often have you seen a team get an absolute steal of a skilled player with a late pick, all because other teams have passed him over for being too small?
Dube checks off most of the necessary boxes for a first-round pick: skill, skating, speed, hockey sense and vision. Unfortunately for him, so do quite a few other draft-eligible players this season, and he’s one of the smaller guys in the bunch. Don’t count on seeing him picked before the middle of the second round — although if a team does choose to take a chance on him before then, it’s unlikely they’ll regret it.