Dillon Dube will be key to Canada's offence - once he's 100 per cent
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ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Fans fell silent and teammates stopped what they were doing as Dillon Dube, wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, slid on his back and crashed into the endboards with a loud bang.
But Dube popped back up and skated to the back of the drill line with a smile on his face, putting a mishap at Tuesday's Hockey Canada junior selection camp practice behind him.
"I felt like with the yellow jersey everyone was too nervous to hit me, but then I tripped on some sticks and go into the endboards," said Dube, who has been playing with a sore shoulder the past two weeks for the Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets. "That happens, that's the way it goes, and nothing came of it."
Dube is one of seven players returning from the 2017 silver-medal world junior team participating at the selection camp at Meridian Centre this week. After his spill, Dube sat out a practice Wednesday followed by a game against an all-star team of players from Canadian universities that the juniors lost 3-0.
Even though he hasn't been seeing a lot of ice time this week, Dube is still a virtual lock to make Canada's junior team when final cuts are announced Friday night. In addition to being a veteran of last year's world junior championship, he is leading Kelowna with 18 goals and 21 assists in 27 games this season.
He'll easily surpass his total of 20 goals and 35 assists after playing only 40 games last season because he fractured his right knee in a pre-season game for the Calgary Flames.
"He's a guy that we're looking forward to having in the lineup but it's no rush right now," said Canada's head coach Dominique Ducharme, who said that keeping Dube out of contact situations was merely precautionary. "We want to make sure he comes back 100 per cent."
Dube has taken advantage of the situation by going extra hard in morning skates at Canada's selection camp to keep his cardio up.
"That's the thing, right? I'm trying to go a little bit harder than maybe the other guys because they're a little bit tired from playing," said Dube. "I'm trying to do that and trying to get going because I can't lose that and I need to stay sharp for when I get in.
"It's still a huge tryout for me and I can't take anything for granted."
Ducharme has said that his vision for this year's Canadian junior team is to have a quick team that can pressure opponents and generate turnovers. In that respect, Dube is the perfect fit.
"Speed. Lots of speed," said Ducharme, when asked what Dube brings to his lineup. "He's a versatile player. He can do the penalty kill, has lots of skills, can be put on the power play."
Dube prides himself on his skating ability and knows that his speed is what helped him crack last year's roster.
"That's something I've worked on for a long time, becoming one of the fastest guys," said Dube. "I think that being able to make plays at a high speed is a big thing. That's what I'd like to do every night here."
Canada plays the U Sports all-star team on Thursday and faces Denmark on Friday. The world junior championship is in Buffalo, N.Y., from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6.
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