Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 06/23/12 at 04:15 PM ET
It was the year of the defencemen in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Eight of the top 10 drafted players were defencemen and 5 of those came through the WHL, meaning that there are a few more small town boys about to hit big cities. One of those players was Mathew Dumba, whose season was especially difficult given his team’s rash of injuries and suspensions. Things got more difficult when Dumba didn’t make the cut when it came to Team Canada’s World Junior Team, but that only seemed to inspire him to push harder for the draft. It also may have led to his being named captain of the U18 Team Canada at the World Championships.
Dumba was named WHL rookie of the year for 2011 and followed that up this year by scoring 20 goals, nearly 10% of his injury riddled team’s 204 season total goals. Dumba could easily attribute his goals to his approximately 30 minutes per night played due to injuries and suspensions for his team. At times the Rebels were reduced to icing only 4 defencemen because they had simply run out of bodies.
That meant that during any given game Dumba might play through an entire penalty kill or power play and usually a minute or two before and/or after. This is something that Dumba will not be able to do at the next level and a habit that will need to be broken. But will that be this season or next season?
At only 17, Dumba is still growing, still developing and of course still working on his game. His bone crushing open ice hits have given him the name he has in the hockey world, but the questions have always surrounded; can that carry forward to the NHL. The likely answer would of course be eventually. Playing and hitting in the WHL is at different speeds and with different body types. Dumba will need the time and patience usually afforded to high draft picks in order to make a transition and to find his bearings.
But Dumba of course is shooting for the NHL next season. He wouldn’t have gone in the first round this year had this not been the case. And of course he’ll accept whatever decision the Wild make saying “That comes down to the choices of the staff in Minnesota, but for me I want to go into Minnesota next year. I want to be ready to play next year and that would be amazing, but if I get sent back to junior, I know that I will use that extra year as a year of growth and to get to that next level.”
In terms of where Dumba might fit on the roster, that is easy to see, this is a team that is looking to rebuild their blueline. They already have a highly ranked defencemen in the system including the team’s 10th overall pick from last year’s draft Jonas Brodin who is yet to crack the lineup. And remember, Dumba is still only 17, at least for another month. The smart money just might be on Dumba returning to Red Deer for another season, maybe two.
No matter when Dumba cracks the lineup, he does anticipate playing in the same division as his friend and former teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins knows exactly what kind of player Dumba is, and while in attendance for the Oilers took the time to catch up with his friend. “He said take it easy on me out there” Dumba said with a laugh. “One thing with Nuge is that you have to keep up with him, and make sure that he doesn’t embarrass you. So it’s kind of a contained thing, but it will be awesome to play against him and being close.”
Although they played on the same team for a season and going through the same drills, Dumba isn’t confident that he will be able to bring any special tips or tricks to the Wild that would help them against their division rivals; “No, he’s so dynamic and you can never read him. So it’s, what can I say he’s such a great player that you’ve got to be aware when you’re out on the ice and be engaged.”
Despite the odds of being drafted, despite the odds of not making the NHL next season, Dumba could have easily been mistaken as the first overall pick because of the size of his smile. As an emotional player you wouldn’t expect much less from Dumba.
Although amazing was one of the few words Dumba could muster to describe the experience, you knew that he was sincere. And that type of heart, character and leadership will only help the Wild through their transition period.
Dumba does appear to be a little on the small side; he’s just under 6’ and he doesn’t yet weight 200 pounds, but any pick selected in the entry draft is not a shoe in for their teams’ next roster and is expected to grow. This of course is one of the arguments for raising the draft age, it would give you a better idea of who you are going to get in their prime in the NHL.
“I want to make an impact as soon as possible,” Dumba reiterated “But it all comes down to what they think, what the personnel thinks in Minnesota; GM, head coach, if they believe I’m ready. But that’s what my summer is for. I’m going to be training all summer so that I can prove to them that they’ve made the right choice.”
The Wild made the right choice. And now the hard work begins. By maintaining his strong work ethic, Dumba can follow the Wild’s training and nutrition regimen to aid in his development and at the same time continue to perfect his shooting skills and passing skills, a major tell of a professional player versus a junior player.
After losing their star player to the Edmonton Oilers last season, the Red Deer Rebels will be more than happy to host Dumba for another season, and they’ll be delighted if they get another after that.
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