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WHL Prospect Watch: Rockets draft glare on Dube, Johansen

From Jamie Benn to Shea Weber to Duncan Keith - the Kelowna Rockets produce quality NHL players - a tradition that should continue into the foreseeable future.

NHL scouts are flocking to Kelowna again this season to monitor a pair of potential first-round candidates for the 2016 NHL Draft in Dillon Dube and Lucas Johansen.

The pair have played an important part in the Rockets' impressive first half that saw them atop the WHL standings with a 25-9-1 record.

Kelowna might have been excused for taking a step back this season - after coming within an overtime goal of winning the 2015 Memorial Cup - and then losing Leon Draisaitl and their top three blueliners (Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey, Cole Martin) to the pros.

However, it didn't take the Rockets long to refuel.

Johansen, the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets' forward Ryan Johansen, has stepped up to assume a major role - displaying a maturity that belies his young age. Having come quite a ways since being a sixth-round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, his gradual improvement this season - particularly while handling prime duties - is the type of upward trajectory that scouts want to see.

The growth in his game has been evident during a difficult final stretch that saw the Rockets reach the Christmas break on a 3-3 run - short-staffed with a number of players away at the World Juniors.

The Port Moody, B.C. native has nearly tripled production from his rookie year in 2014-15, and emerged as the team's top scoring rearguard.

Up front, center Dillon Dube has also assumed a significantly larger role this season - an opportunity opened in part to the injury absence of Rourke Chartier.

Dube won gold with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka (5-1-2-3) - and then got off to a sizzling sophomore start (14-10-13-23) - before being derailed by an upper-body injury. Not the same force upon returning from a five game absence, although his play did improve during the Xmas stretch.


A poised, all-weather defenseman with good size, skill and mobility.

Johansen adopts a safe and conservative approach - and isn't one to stand out by making flashy plays or being aggressive offensively.

Going unnoticed isn't necessarily a bad thing in his case - particularly from a defensive perspective.

A responsible defender focussed on establishing sound positions while defending his goal.

Effective at gaining a positional edge and tying up an opponents' stick and body, aided by an extra long blade on his stick, albeit is not a physical presence.

Maintains solid gap control backing up defending the rush. Does a good job of closing gaps, but can get overaggressive at times, notably in the neutral zone. However, he is strong and alert in recovery - gets back to defend his net and stays aware of situations by looking around - doesn't 'puck watch'.

A calm and methodical puckmover who reads the game well and effectively utilizes his smarts and mobility to find open space. Displays a talent for diffusing pressure and finding clean outlets.

Skating is an asset as he possesses very good all-around agility - thanks to talented and springy feet. Moves smoothly and effortlessly in all directions - but can get quicker - especially off the mark - once he adds mass and muscle to a lanky 6-foot-1 frame.

His legs are long and thin - and will need to get stronger in order to help add power to all phases of his skating.

Selective about jumping into the attack - but quite productive when he does. Displays good offensive instincts - will pinch up to intercept outlets and ignite the transition. Also has a feel for finding those spots off the rush - gets himself into good shooting lanes.

Currently ranked at the top of the second round for this summer's draft, but could push into the first if he continues on the same development curve.


Blending in is not a positive thing in the case of Dillon Dube. At his best, Dube has shown scouts an electric pace to his game, great energy and a knack for being around the puck.

A speedy and skilled playmaker with excellent vision and creativity. 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.

Brings a real urgency and purpose to his puckmoving - stays in motion while handling and moving around with the puck. Slick and elusive as a passer - has a gift for deceiving opponents with his intentions. Senses pressure well - lets gaps close to draw checkers in and then makes plays to open spaces.

Shows good anticipation away from the puck and healthy attention to defense. Intercepts passes by reading the play and exploiting quick, skilled stickwork. Effective at getting his stick on pucks, aided by excellent reach for his size. Can elongate his body and has good skill at full extension.

Adding strength and consistency are the projections that NHL scouts must ponder. Undersized at 5-10 and 180 pounds - and can be neutralized against bigger, physical defense - or when his intensity levels wane.

His makeup and physical talents would suggest he could pan out as a skilled bottom-six forward - as the NHL has seen a shift towards smaller, talented players on the lower lines.

Anyone who has seen Dube at his flashy, high-flying best might be hard-pressed to pass on him after the top 20 - a similar spot to where Travis Konecny went in the last draft.