Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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He may only be 18, but Wild's Matt Dumba is shooting for the NHL

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 10, 2013 - 2:54 PM
The Wild’s annual summer development camp began Tuesday with 36 prospects in town.
 
The Wild didn’t bring in most its 2013-14 prospect hopefuls. So, if you consider 19-year-old Jonas Brodin still a prospect despite making the NHL’s All-Rookie team last year, he’s not here. Nor is Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter or Mikael Granlund.
 
As reported in today’s notebook here, some prospects can’t participate this week. Brett Bulmer, who has a very important season ahead of him, has a lingering injury, so he is doing off-ice work. 2013 second-round pick Gustav Olofsson (wrist surgery after his season in Green Bay), won’t be cleared for full contract for two weeks. He is skating in the sessions but probably won’t take part in the 3-on-3 tournaments this week. Louie Nanne (shoulder surgery) and Mario Lucia (exams at Notre Dame) are also not participating.
 
Remember, if you want to watch the 3-on-3 tournaments, they are free and open to the public (Thursday, 3:30; Friday, 2:45 p.m.; Saturday, 2:45 p.m.). Gate One opens 30 minutes before each session.
 
There are a few Wild players at camp that could be vying for spots in the fall, guys like former Gophers center Erik Haula and hard-shooting, hard-hitting defenseman Matt Dumba. I will write about Haula later in the week.
 
Dumba, the Wild’s 2012 first-round pick who’s still only 18 years old (birthday July 25), can’t play in Iowa next season because he’ll only be 19 (NHL rule with the Canadian Hockey Leauue). So it’s Wild or WHL Red Deer. If he’s returned to the Rebels before playing in 10 games, his three-year contract slides. He can return to the Rebels after playing in 10 games, but the first year of his contract would be burned.
 
His objective is to make the Wild. The Wild kept him around the first eight days of last season so he could be a sponge, travel with the team, get a taste of the NHL even if he didn’t get to play a game.
 
“That first 2 1/2 weeks was awesome,” Dumba said. “It adds fuel to the fire. It’s everything I’ve ever dream of and more. It just motivated me that much more when I went back to Red Deer and when I was in Houston [late in the season] just to keep battling and competing each day and getting better and better. Even in offseason training, I’m just going in there each day and wanting to reach my full potential because I know it’s right there in front of me.”
 
The Wild will give him every chance to make the team or at least stick into the start of the regular season. He’ll get exhibition games, he’ll be in Traverse City for the prospect tournament.
 
The Wild will decide in camp whether it will keep seven or eight defensemen. Six typically play and the top-6 is Ryan Suter, Brodin, Marco Scandella, Keith Ballard, Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon. Nate Prosser is slated as No. 7. GM Chuck Fletcher will almost certainly sign another veteran defenseman with NHL experience to a two-way deal, and with so many forwards and defensemen with NHL experience still unsigned in the league, he’ll likely bring some players in on pro tryouts.
 
As for Dumba, assistant GM Brent Flahr says, “I don’t think you’re going to corner him out. He’s a dynamic kid the way he plays the game. We’re not putting any pressure on him, but if you ask him, I’m sure he’s coming to camp to make the team. Some of the things he brings is really attractive and we could really use, but we’re not going to force him. We’ll give him a good look.”
 
That’s it for now. Matt Cooke will be introduced to the media this afternoon. I’ll blog afterward.
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