Two years after winning gold as Team Canada’s captain at the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube is now one of the team’s biggest fans as he gets ready to embark on his third National Hockey League season.
The 22-year-old - along with his Flames teammates - have been following closely as Canada has gotten off to a perfect start inside the Edmonton bubble.
“I’ve watched all the games,” he said in an interview with TSN on Wednesday.
“It’s a little different watching this year. They’re dominant. The games are a little lopsided right now.”
The 2017 Canadian World Junior squad, led by Thomas Chabot and Mathew Barzal, lost the gold-medal game to the United States in a heartbreaking 5-4 shootout. Dube contributed three assists in seven games. The following year, Dube had five points in seven games as he captained Canada to a 3-1 victory over Sweden to win the country’s 17th gold medal.
“At the tournament, you felt like you were in your own little world,” he said.
“It didn’t really feel like the World Juniors. You kind of block out all the attention. In the moment, it was a pretty cool experience. Now, it’s that thing that we gather around the TV with the family during the holidays and are able to watch and be proud to be Canadian. It’s pretty special to be a part of it and now to be a fan of it.”
Two members of this year’s Team Canada, Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary, are recent Flames’ first-round draft picks and could be Dube’s NHL teammates in the coming years. Pelletier scored twice and Zary had an assist in Canada’s 10-0 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday. The two have combined for five points in six games thus far.
“To see them succeed at this and do really well and playing together is pretty cool for Flames fans to see,” Dube said. “To have two guys on the team is pretty special and it means a lot. I’m rooting for them…I know everyone on our team is really rooting for them to do well and so far, they’ve been playing great together. They’ve been playing the right way. It’s exciting to watch them develop.”
With a Flames roster that includes defenceman Juuso Valimaki, who captained Finland at the 2018 World Juniors, Dube hinted that there could be more than just bragging rights on the line come Thursday’s New Year’s Eve tilt when the two countries face each other.
“Really excited for that matchup,” Dube said.
“We have a couple of bets on that with the Finns that we got here right now, so I’m really rooting for them. I think this test will really see what they’re made of and I think they’re ready for it.”
As a seasoned veteran of 14 World Juniors games with two medals, Dube had some simple advice for the players on Team Canada in their quest for back-to-back golds.
“I think just stay in the moment,” he said.
“You can’t get too high or low…stay even-grounded. It’s going to be a lot of emotion. There’s so much riding on it. I think Canada always feels a ton of pressure throughout it. So I think if they can just come together and take that on themselves, I think they’ll be fine.”