Wild adopts defensive posture with Mathew Dumba

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2012 - 12:57 PM

The Wild took hard-hitting blueliner Mathew Dumba with the seventh overall selection in the NHL entry draft.

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Matthew Dumba, center, a defenseman, smiled with officials from the Wild after being chosen seventh overall in the first round of the NHL hockey draft Frida in Pittsburgh.

Photo: Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

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PITTSBURGH - His hits are bone- jarring, his shot lights-out and his thoroughbred mentality is said to be special.

Mathew Dumba might be only 17, but there's a reason the Wild passed over a few enticing forwards Friday night to snatch the Red Deer Rebels defenseman with the seventh overall pick in the NHL draft: His bag of tricks could be overflowing with goodies.

"He's a game-changer," said Peter Loubardias, a Canadian TV analyst who scouts for Red Deer. "He can do it all, and at the end of the day, you've got a passionate, caring, want-to-be-the-best, wants-to-win-at-all-costs guy. He's got a heart as big as a bathtub."

For a Wild team that reinvented its blue line the past year by trading Brent Burns, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon, lassoing Dumba was too good an opportunity to pass up -- even though skilled forwards Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko and Teuvo Teravainen fell into its wheelhouse.

The Wild has six forward prospects turning pro next season, yet Jonas Brodin, the 10th pick in last year's draft, is considered the Wild's only blue-chip defenseman on the way.

Dumba knew this. So when the Wild brass walked to the podium early Friday evening, he sat back and prayed to hear his name. And when he did, it was like "nothing I've ever felt before," he said. "Just this overwhelming chill throughout my whole body."

Dumba immediately hugged his very giddy mother, Treena; father and former coach, Charlie; and 14-year-old brother, Kyle, who hopes to be experiencing the same feeling in four years.

"This is Mathew's shining moment," Treena said, proudly.

One year after being named the Western Hockey League Rookie of the Year following a 15-goal campaign, Dumba scored 20 goals -- the most by a Rebels defenseman since Dion Phaneuf in 2004-05 -- nine power-play goals and 57 points in 69 games while playing 30 minutes a game many nights.

Dumba was captain for Team Canada at the 2012 Under-18 world championship, helping lead the country to a bronze. He was named best defenseman of the tournament after being the first defenseman to ever lead the tournament in scoring. He also captained Canada to gold at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. In that tournament, he went head-to-head against Grigorenko and Forsberg. Neither got a point.

"It's hard to find skilled right-shot defensemen, and to find somebody that shoots the puck that hard, skates that well and has a physical edge, it's a rare package," Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.

Added assistant GM Brent Flahr: "He plays with a lot of passion. I think our fans will be able to identify with him very well."

Dumba, despite standing 5-11¾, has a reputation for the open-ice hit.

"This kid annihilates people. He's one of those low-center-of-gravity kids that finds a way to go through people," said Grant Sonier, a longtime scout who writes for ESPN.com and who compares Dumba to the Kings' Drew Doughty -- coincidentally, Dumba's idol.

Dumba, whose mom is of Filipino descent and dad of Romanian/German, learned the "skill" from his dad and "it blossomed."

"When he was in peewee, he mastered the art of hitting," Treena said. "Charlie talked to him about timing and knowing when to step into somebody."

Added Charlie, "I tell the boys they've got be 100 percent ready, but never look like they're ready."

The one knock on Dumba is he tries to do too much, but Dumba said he is learning to channel "it in the right direction."

Flahr said the Wild will have to rein him in a bit and teach him defensive nuances, but the physicality, "I'm not sure ... we want that to come out of his game. That's what makes him what he is."

For a year, the running joke inside the Dumba family was that Mathew would be drafted by the Wild. Years ago, they visited Calgary, loved it and moved there. Later, they visited Red Deer, loved it and Dumba was drafted there.

Last June, the family came to St. Paul for the 2011 draft so Dumba could learn what to expect.

"I said, 'I love this city. I want you to be drafted by Minnesota,' " Treena said. "That was the running joke all year, and now he's there. Isn't that amazing?"

Eight defensemen were taken in the first 10 picks at Friday's draft -- the most ever -- including Dumba's friends Griffin Reinhart (fourth to the Islanders), Morgan Rielly (fifth to Toronto) and Derrick Pouliot (eighth to Pittsburgh). The same four went consecutively in the 2009 WHL bantam draft.

"They're all defensemen and they all want to be the best," Charlie said.

The Wild tried to trade for another first-rounder, but the price was too high and most teams wanted to select. But the Wild was delighted with landing Dumba.

While it is hard to imagine Dumba stepping in right away, the Wild brass said he will be given every chance.

"I want to make an impact as soon as possible, but it all comes down to what they think," Dumba said. "I'm going to be training all summer so I can prove to them that they made the right choice."

  • 2012 NHL ENTRY DRAFT AT CONSOL ENERGY CENTER, PITTSBURGH

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