At just 21 years of age, Matt Dumba is the youngest Wild player by nearly a year. That hasn’t stopped the Calgary, Alberta native from quickly becoming a fixture in Minnesota’s defensive faction, nor from becoming one of the most electrifying young talents in the NHL. As our Wild Watch player profiles continue, let us shine the spotlight on Dumba’s accomplishments last season, and peer into what the future holds for the Wild’s young defenseman.
After spending the first couple months of his 2014-2015 campaign in Minnesota and compiling just 4 points in 20 games, Dumba was sent down to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa in order to sharpen his defensive game and also to gain critical experience in big spot moments during games; something he simply wasn’t getting in the NHL. In Des Moines, Dumba was able to play meaningful minutes on the power play and in other critical situations while also amassing more ice time in general, something he was not yet ready to do in the NHL.
He responded to the challenge by collecting 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points in 20 games in Iowa. He was called up to Minnesota on the 15th of January and scored a goal while going +3 in a game against the Buffalo Sabres; Dumba never looked back.
In 58 regular season games with the Wild, Dumba scored 8 times and added 8 assists. He also scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 10 playoff games, including 3 points in 4 games against the eventual Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Dumba, the 7th overall pick in 2012, began to show great promise and potential as the season progressed and upon return from Iowa, he appeared more confident than ever. Dumba played stronger in the defensive zone, demonstrated more composure, and did what he does best; he showed off his powerful shot and quick release numerous times while victimizing multiple opposing goalies, Jake Allen included.
Perhaps most importantly, Dumba proved to head coach Mike Yeo that he could be trusted to play smart defensively in his own zone, a pillar of Minnesota Wild hockey under Yeo and his staff.
Dumba carries the assurance of being one of Minnesota’s best players down the stretch last season into this year; one which should be a great opportunity for him to take yet another step towards being considered an elite NHL defenseman.
For Dumba, the 2015-16 season will bring a number of changes with it. His number has changed, going from no. 55 to no. 24 (Dumba was even classy enough to ask permission from the family of the late Derek Boogaard to wear Boogaard’s no. 24 Wild sweater). Also, as opposed to last year, he already knows he will be on the team and in the game Thursday when the Wild open their season in Colorado against the Avalanche. His defensive partner has also changed.
Dumba spent most of the end of last season playing with veteran Jordan Leopold who was, due to salary cap and roster space concerns, not offered a new contract at the end of the year and thus lost to free agency. The preliminary plan is for Dumba to start the year paired with Jonas Brodin. The pair make an intriguing on-ice duo (as well as great friends off the ice) due to their contrasting styles. Dumba is a hyper-active, offensively gifted talent on the back-end, always looking for an opportunity to step up and create a scoring chance while Brodin employs a methodical, almost effortless positional game to stymie opponents. Both can skate; and their friendship and familiarity with one another has apparently translated to the rink and people are taking notice.
Dumba figures to have a larger role this season playing with Brodin on the second pairing and likely drawing into plenty of power play time.
Trying to accurately translate the results of preseason hockey into regular season predictions can prove problematic, but the preseason cannot be entirely dismissed either. And if the Wild’s final preseason game is any indication, Matt Dumba could be in for quite the year.
He scored 2 goals and added 2 assists in an 8-1 drubbing of the Winnipeg Jets in St. Paul while also tallying the infamous “3rd assist” on a Charlie Coyle goal before which Dumba made a spectacular breakout pass to spring the play that would eventually end in Coyle burying the puck in behind the Jets’ Michael Hutchinson.
Dumba’s first goal against the Jets in that game was particularly impressive. He skated the puck around the offensive zone while playing keep away from Winnipeg players before eventually handing it off and finding a soft spot in the Jets’ defensive zone coverage and then burying an absolute Howitzer of a one-timer.
It should surprise nobody if Matt Dumba has a breakout season in 2015-16.
Nate has been a Minnesota Wild contributor at The Hockey Writers since 2014 and previously spent time covering the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team. For everything Minnesota Wild related, follow him on Twitter @natebauer.