Tuesday morning the Portland Winterhawks acquired the rights to Minnesota Wild defenseman Mathew Dumba from the Red Deer Rebels. In return they sent forward Presten Kopeck and conditional picks in upcoming Bantam Drafts.
While there has been no official word that the Wild are returning the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, there are signs pointing to him being sent back to the WHL.
Will this move give Portland enough to repeat as WHL Champions?
Will Dumba return?
The most important piece of this move is whether or not Dumba will be returned to the junior ranks by the Wild. Dumba has only played in 13 games this season with Minnesota, picking up a goal and an assist.
He has been a healthy scratch more times than not and with the Wild loaning the blue liner to Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships, it seems his return to the WHL would be imminent.
Dumba last appeared in the WHL with Red Deer during the 2012-2013 season where he racked up 42 points for the Rebels. The year before he set a career high with 20 goals and 57 points which resulted in the Wild selecting him with the seventh pick of the draft.
He is a highly-skilled defenseman who plays a physical, high energy game from the blue line to go along with some stellar puck-moving offensive talent.
By only appearing in 13 games at the NHL level and being allowed to play in the World Juniors it makes sense that the Wild would see Dumba’s return to regular ice time in the WHL as a positive step for the 19-year-old.
Chances are that he will be wearing a Winterhawks sweater at the conclusion of the World Juinor tournament.
Where does he fit with Portland?
It may sound silly at first to suggest that the Portland Winterhawks need an upgrade of any kind. After all, we are talking about a team that has the best record in the WHL, is leading its conference and is far and away the top goal scoring club in the league.
But they do need an upgrade.
What the need is some help on the blue line and that’s why this move is such a good one for them.
The Winterhawks went into this season looking for ways to fill the void on defense left by Troy Rutkowski, Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones. Those are some big skates to fill and while the team is still winning they have been a little leaky at times.
Portland is averaging 3.3 goals allowed per game. Only four of the 16 teams currently holding a playoff spot in the WHL have allowed more. Last season, the Winterhawks only allowed an average of 2.3 goals per game and would clamp down on their opponents which led to more pucks for their dangerous offense.
Now faced with a tougher division and conference the Winterhawks needed to make a move to shore up their defense — Dumba will help.
e will join Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot, Vancouver Canucks prospect Anton Cederholm and Washington Capitals prospect Garrett Haar on what will now be a tough defense.
Goals become scarce in the playoffs as the room on the ice becomes tougher and tougher to come by. Portland had to make a move if they were going to repeat as WHL Champions. Last season’s run was made possible more by Portlands stifling defense as it was their offensive acumen. They held opponents to under two goals per game in the 21 post season games they played.
When you can shut down your opponents attack and get the puck out of your zone and to your talented forwards, like Nic Petan, Brendan Leipsic and Oliver Bjorkstrand, you are going to be a handful to handle.
With Dumba in the fold the Winterhawks are gonig to be that much harder to handle and tough to beat in the playoffs.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.