by Lisa Brown on 01/26/12 at 11:00 PM ET
The Red Deer Rebels are once again a team of special interest for Oilers fans. With the current state of the defence, many would like to see the Oilers draft a hard hitting, physical, and yet playmaking defenceman.
Enter Mathew Dumba. Dumba hails from Calgary and on many nights is regarded as the Rebel’s best player. With his rocket of a slapshot, his big hits and his nose for the net, Dumba can do it all it seems. Currently, Dumba is ranked 6th by Central Scouting, but where he will actually be picked is anyone’s guess. And so, there are far more than just the Oilers and their fans interested in this young man.
The Red Deer Rebels have not had their most successful season to this point. In fact it is not looking as though the Rebels may not even make the playoffs this year. “We ran into some suspension and injury trouble that really hurt out team,” explains Dumba. “At one point, we had seven of our top ten guys out at once and it’s hard to play in this league when you’re missing so many guys like that, but not really too many other excuses besides that.
“It’s just kind of getting back on track. We know that we’re a good team and we know we have the stuff but it’s having the confidence, having the swagger and going out and performing every night now. “
Amidst the rocky start to the Rebels’ season, Dumba also felt the frustration and disappointment that can only come from being a final cut from the Team Canada World Juniors’ team roster. At the time, Dumba thought that he had been playing well and even the reminder that players such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyler Seguin had also been cut on previous years.
“There was so much emphasis on it [Team Canada camp] and I wanted to do so well for that and prepare myself. Every little thing I messed up on I was kind of critiquing and I just didn’t let myself play. When I came back, I had played so well at the Team Canada camp that I had so much confidence that I learned so much there that I wanted to bring that back and help the boys as much as I can.
“I thought that we would go on a tear and I had all of these big dreams, but it’s not all that easy. You’ve got to make sure that you’re preparing the right way and really focussing in and dialling in.
“I think I’m learning lots about myself. I’m 17 as a person and as a hockey player. I think that the big thing is preparing. So much of my game and so much some of the guys’ out there doing everything there’s preparation. You’ve got to visualize, you’ve got to do all of the little things. And when I’m doing that stuff my game is really good.”
Upon his return to the Rebels, it took Dumba some time to get back to where he would like to be with his game. “I’ve focussed on what I need to do to be a successful player out there. I’ve really started to turn around my game; I’m playing like Mat Dumba again.
“I’m going out there and I’m being tenacious and battling and showing that passion that everyone likes to see, which makes me a good hockey player and helps my team. So if I just continue this for the rest of the year, then I think that I’ll be doing well.”
The latest rankings had Dumba 6th for North American skaters which was a little lower than his previous rankings. For Dumba “I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I just decided to delete my Twitter and delete Facebook recently and it’s just a distraction sort of thing. I didn’t really need all that and it lets me relax now and focus on the people that are important to my life and focus on the game that I love.
“I’m a young guy and I guess all of the guys are going through that right now. It’s a lot of pressure on us.
These are little changes, but they may have made a big difference. “It’s working out good for me now I think. I guess I was a little bit disappointed hearing that but I think with my game and how I’m playing now and how us as a team are responding we’re going to finish the year really hard and go for a playoff push I think it would be really good and I’m excited.”
In every Rebels game, you will find Dumba playing big minutes. Often, Dumba will play a full power play and then what seems to be an additional two minutes, waiving off the call back to the bench. “I think it’s kind of a mindset that people think that you get tired out there but it’s all mental.
“You’ve got to really bare down and focus on the task at hand and really I’d like to say that a big part of it is my training. My trainer’s great in the summer Tommy Powers out at that school in Calgary here he would do so much for me and we would train so hard in the summer and it’s all for this so I can go out there and play these big minutes, to be a guy that’s logging a lot of ice time and contributing to the team.”
Being selected early in the first period will mean that Dumba will find himself drafted by a developing or depth challenged team. Dumba doesn’t appear worried about that at all. After all, he can bring a lot to any team in that situation.
“I think I can bring that passion and that work ethic. I’m always working hard and I want to make sure that I can bring that battle and compete. I practise and always make sure that I’m working on the little things and focussing on the details. I think that that will really help me at the next level and bring to that team whatever they want from me. I think that I’m a versatile player and I can bring anything they want from me.”
Dumba is a heavy hitter in the WHL and is confident that this will translate to the next level. “I think I’d be good. I’d just be tenacious and be a guy that’s not afraid of an opportunity like that. I think that you can sway the momentum of a game and really be a spark for your teammates and it helps a lot when you’ve got a big hit out there.”
While every player is different, every young player has their heroes or players they would like to model their game after. Dumba seemed a little reluctant to admit his, but finally said “If anyone I’d like to model my play after Drew Daughty. I think that he’s a great player and he sees the ice so well. His skating ability is amazing, he’s not afraid to make a hit and he’s got an amazing shot I think to aspire to be like Drew one day would be phenomenal.”
There are still 5 months until the draft, and “There are scouts there every night. I don’t really focus on any of that. I just go out and play hockey. I come to the rink every day with a smile on my face and know that it’s what I love to do. I don’t want to be any place else than the rink. So when I’m out here go out and have fun.”
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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