In 2015, the Calgary Flames drafted both Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington in the second round of the NHL draft. Now in 2022, they’re both enjoying breakout seasons as fixtures in the Flames’ top two defensive pairings. Both have set career-highs in point totals, and Andersson is even on pace to crack 50 points for the first time.
Another Flames second-round pick—from the 2016 draft—has not yet had a similar breakout. Although he has been one of the Flames’ most promising young forwards for years, Dillon Dube has continued to struggle to produce offensively at the NHL level.
Dube’s on-ice metrics
With 22 points in 61 games, he has matched his total from the 2021 season, but in 14 more games. Despite his uninspiring offensive production, there have been promising signs in his game, especially a recent stint in the Flames top-six with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk.
In that stint, we saw flashes of his impressive offence from his time in junior, where he scored 38 goals in just 53 games, and the AHL, where he scored 56 points in 56 games.
He recorded two points in three games on that line, but it was quickly broken up to restore the dominant top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Tkachuk. Although its a small sample size, it was reassuring to see that offence from a player who’s offensive touch seemed to be fading.
To go along with the reassurance of that flash of offence, there’s a lot of promise in his underlying on-ice numbers, from Evolving-Hockey.com. In fact, despite his disappointing point total, there’s reason to hope Dube is on the verge of breaking out into the threat the Flames’ have long hoped he could be. All data in this table is 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted.
|Season||GP||CF%||xGF%||On-ice S%||On-ice SV%|
Throughout his career, both his possession and scoring chance numbers have steadily improved. The only metric which has suffered is on-ice shooting percentage, the shooting percentage of the whole team while he is on the ice.
This helps explain Dube’s offensive struggles. Despite creating more chances than ever, his teammates are putting fewer pucks in the net as a result of those chances. Playing in the bottom-six with low-scoring line mates helps keep that number down, but some regression to the league average even-strength shooting percentage of 8.4% can be expected, which will help bump his assist numbers pick up.
For comparison, in his three games in the top-six, Dube’s on-ice shooting percentage shot up to nearly 14%.
Dube’s individual rates
Another important factor to consider is ice time. Dube is playing nearly a full minute less per game than last season, giving him less time to score goals and create offence. Looking at his point production in all situations on a per 60 minutes of ice time basis to account for this, the drop in his offence is still notable, but not quite as stark.
Even with a dismal on-ice shooting percentage, his assist rate is identical to last season, suggesting his scoring chance creation has actually improved at least in terms of quantity, despite the drop in point totals. His drop in points has more to do with his own reduced goal scoring.
After an inflated individual shooting percentage of 13.1% in 2021, regression towards the league average this year is no surprise. What’s more interesting is that although he is scoring slightly less, he’s creating more chances than ever with an individual expected goals per sixty of 0.9.
It makes sense then, that when given the chance to play with more offensive players, the points started coming for Dube.
A rate of less than an expected goal per 60 minutes is far from elite, but it ranks him eighth among regular Flames’ skaters, ahead of Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan. Among the regular bottom-six fixtures, he is only beaten by Calle Jarnkrok in this metric.
When opportunity knocks, Dube will answer
With his speed, versatility, and impressive recent play, it seems inevitable another opportunity will come for Dube to play in the top-six. The depth of the current Flames’ roster makes it difficult to crack right now, but with a cap crunch looming in the off season, his relatively inexpensive $2.3 million dollar cap hit for the next two seasons may earn him an extended look soon.
When that time comes, the underlying numbers suggest he will be ready. His steady improvement, and his recent success in the role, point to a player capable of more. Even with his currently underwhelming point totals, there’s a good player in Dube, and his time is coming.
Cover photo: Sergei Belski/USA Today