When the lockout ended and the 2012-2013 season began last January, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher extended a training camp invite to young defenseman Mathew Dumba. The Wild selected Dumba in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft with the seventh overall pick. Dumba would spend just a little more than two weeks with the Wild so his time with the big club was short-lived.
Dumba did not play for the Wild last season but he was with the club for a few games as a healthy scratch. The main purpose of this short stay was to give him an idea of what life is like at the NHL level. The youngster participated in warm-ups, learned about the level of preparation that goes into games, and he got a sense of the professionalism that comes with playing in the NHL. The young defenseman got a small taste of the NHL and since then he has been looking for more.
A Physical Offensive-Defenseman
After his brief stint with the Wild, Dumba went on to further establish himself as an offensive-defenseman by having another productive season in the WHL last year. Dumba hopes all of his hard work will pay off by helping him earn an opportunity with the Wild this coming season.
If Dumba impresses out of the gate the Wild may decide to keep him on the roster. The defenseman just turned nineteen years old. Under the current agreements, players like Dumba with junior eligibility that have signed an NHL contract need to be twenty years old before they can be assigned to the AHL. Dumba made a few AHL appearances last season but these were after his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels‘ season had ended.
If Dumba plays well enough to earn a spot on the Wild roster he can remain in the NHL for nine regular season games. After this time, the organization will need to decide if they want to keep him in the NHL or assign him to the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.
The young defenseman has earned his reputation as an offensive-defenseman for good reason. In the season prior to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Dumba scored twenty goals and thirty-seven assists in sixty-nine games for the Red Deer Rebels. After being drafted, Dumba scored sixteen goals and twenty-six assists in sixty-two games in the 2012-2013 campaign.
Over his WHL career, Dumba has 0.64 points per game which is remarkable for a defenseman. He has a total of fifty-one goals and seventy-six assists in one hundred and ninety-nine career games in the WHL.
[See Also: Mathew Dumba's Draft Prospect Profile]
Another element of Mathew Dumba’s game is his physical play. Dumba is known for big hits that keep his adversaries on their toes. Dumba prides himself on his open-ice checks that can help turn momentum and make life difficult for the opposing team. Many analysts have compared Dumba’s game to P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dumba is a physical offensive-defenseman who will be a welcomed addition to the Wild and he definitely has the potential to arrive on the blue line this season.
Why Dumba Could Make the Big Club
There were many positive aspects of the Wild defense that helped the club qualify for the playoffs last season. Ryan Suter had an excellent year that lead to his Norris Trophy nomination. In addition, Jonas Brodin emerged as a stellar defenseman as a nineteen year old who logged big ice time in key situations for the club. Aside from these two strong contributors, the rest of the Wild defense on the whole struggled for consistency at times last season.
Some turnover occurred on the Wild blue line this summer when defenseman Justin Falk was traded to the New York Rangers. Defenseman Brett Clark also left through unrestricted free agency and the Wild used a compliance buyout on defenseman Tom Gilbert.
In addition, the Wild signed a few veteran defensemen during the offseason. The Wild signed Keith Ballard who spent the last three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. The club has also brought in Jonathon Blum who spent time with the Nashville Predators.
These new-comers will combine with a group of returning veterans that includes Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Marco Scandella, and Nate Prosser who are all in the mix to round out the defense. This group of returning veterans had stretches in the 2012-2013 campaign where they each played well but at other times they did not play to their full potential.
Suter and Brodin look to build upon the success they had last season. However, with turnover and some veteran struggles on defense, opportunity is knocking for Mathew Dumba. If he is able to establish his game at the NHL level, Dumba will have a chance to land a spot on the roster. He will have steep competition but look for the organization to consider Dumba for the big club.
The Wild Bottom Line
After qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, the Wild hope they can again clinch a playoff berth and make a deeper run this season. In a lockout-shortened season, the Wild finished with just one-hundred and twenty-two goals. This output was below the league average and only eleven goals better than the league-worst Nashville Predators who scored one-hundred and eleven goals. The Pittsburgh Penguins led the league last year with one hundred and sixty-five goals scored.
While his defensive game needs polishing, Dumba is a gifted offensive-defenseman who has the potential to help bolster the offense. Dumba also has a physical presence that can make the Wild tougher to play against. The youngster’s performance over the coming weeks will determine if he will get an opportunity with the big club this season.
One thing that is for certain is that Dumba is a tireless and determined worker. If Chuck Fletcher, Mike Yeo, and the rest of the coaching staff feel he is not yet ready for the NHL, Dumba will continue to work hard and improve in juniors until he earns a permanent spot on the Minnesota Wild roster.