Wild notes: Dumba thrives in junior league
- Article by: Michael Russo
- Star Tribune
- February 5, 2014 - 12:51 AM
Matt Dumba is thriving for the Portland Winterhawks.
The Winterhawks, second in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference, are 8-0 since the Wild’s 2012 first-round draft pick arrived after the world junior championships. In eight games, the defenseman has two goals, eight points and is plus-17.
“This is going to end up being a really good developmental year for him,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said of Dumba, who spent the first two-plus months on the Wild roster and was in 13 games before playing for Canada in the world junior championship.
Portland acquired Dumba’s WHL rights from Red Deer in December, and the Wild opted to return him to juniors after the tournament.
“[Dumba] played in the NHL and got to practice with NHL players and watch guys like [Ryan] Suter on a day-in, day-out basis,” Fletcher said. “He was able to play for his country in the world juniors and now he’s getting big minutes on one of the best junior teams in the Canadian Hockey League. He’ll probably end up, I would guess, somewhere close to 60 games this year, so we’ve been able to cobble together a pretty good year for him.
“Hopefully he finishes with lots of confidence and strong so this will be a positive experience to build off going into next year.”
Because Dumba is 19, he was not allowed to play in the American Hockey League this season.
He will be able to play for Iowa next season if he doesn’t make the Wild out of training camp.
One that got away
Tyler Johnson may be the one that got away from the Wild. The 23-year-old Lightning forward has centered the Lightning’s top line in Steven Stamkos’ absence and is second among NHL rookies with 17 goals and 35 points.
The undrafted forward attended two Wild development camps and rookie tournaments, injuring his shoulder during his second one. He returned to Spokane, where he led the Western Hockey League with 53 goals in 2011 and was named WHL Player of the Year.
Johnson talked to the Wild about a contract multiple times, but the 5-9 center ultimately signed with Tampa Bay.
His only pro coach has been Jon Cooper, both in Tampa Bay and in the minors. They won a Calder Cup together in 2012 with Norfolk. A year later, Johnson led the AHL in goal-scoring and was the league’s MVP.
“I truly believed Tyler Johnson was going to be not only an NHL player but somebody who played in the league awhile,” Cooper said. “I just never ever envisioned him jumping into the Calder [Trophy] race.”
Johnson loved his tryouts with the Wild and said he nearly signed in Minnesota, but “I just felt my best opportunity was Tampa Bay. It was a tough decision at the time, but right now, I’m very happy with it.”
Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said; “We can beat him up because of his size, but if you watch him, he does everything right. He’s small but highly competitive, smart and skilled. It’s a good story. He’s a terrific kid.”
• The Wild announced its season-ticket prices for the 2014-15 season will range from $23 to $95 per game. Upper-level ticket prices are unchanged; prices in other areas are increasing from $2 to $5 (3.5 percent).
• Defenseman Jared Spurgeon returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing 14 games with a broken foot. Spurgeon was injured Jan. 2 and wore custom-molded shot protectors on his skates against the Lightning.
• With Spurgeon back, Clayton Stoner was scratched and Nate Prosser was paired with veteran Keith Ballard. Yeo told Stoner that he’s not unhappy with his game but that Ballard and Prosser earned the right to stay in the lineup.
• Left winger Mike Rupp and right winger Justin Fontaine, who missed Monday’s practice because he was ill, were scratched. Stephane Veilleux, scratched the previous five games, and Torrey Mitchell, scratched Saturday in Calgary, played.
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