Dumba embracing NHL life in Minnesota, waiting to see if the Wild will keep him
Local product has reached the nine-game limit and has been a healthy scratch as of late, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be sent back to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels
Calgarian Matthew Dumba has reached his nine-game limit with the Minnesota Wild (one more and the first year of his entry-level contract will kick in), so there is a chance he could be returned to the Red Deer Rebels. However, he is hoping he stays in the NHL.
Photograph by: Bill Wippert, NHLI via Getty Images
St. PAUL, Minn. — They say Minnesota is a lot like Alberta, while the Twin Cities, in a many ways, are kind of like Calgary.
The people are friendly. They brace themselves for wintertime snow. And, of course, they know their hockey.
Mathew Dumba experienced this first-hand the other day when he went out for sushi at his favourite hot spot and returned home to his apartment to find he was locked out.
“There was a pizza delivery guy waiting for someone to come pick up their pizza,” the Calgary native was saying, shortly after the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate on Tuesday at the Excel Energy Center. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you must have had a nice day off.’ I was like, ‘How does this guy know it’s my day off?’ Like, whoa, this is weird.
“Then, I put it together that he must know who I am. It’s kind of funny.”
Truth be told, the 19-year-old Red Deer Rebels defenceman knows he hasn’t made it yet and the team’s local celebrities are more of the Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville variety.
But Dumba, nine games into his extended stay in the National Hockey League, is working hard every day to get there. Including Tuesday’s game against his hometown heroes, the Calgary Flames, he’s been a healthy scratch for the past three games. IF he plays one more game, that means his three-year entry level contract would kick in and he’d be around for the entire 82-game season — his first as a bonafide NHLer. If not, he’d return to the badly struggling Red Deer Rebels, 7-9-0-1 in Western Hockey League play.
Minnesota, though, does not seem to be in a rush to decide on his future.
The Wild blueline was hit with injuries, losing Jonas Brodin and Keith Ballard at the same time which was how Dumba was forced into the lineup. Now, it’s simply a numbers game with eight healthy defenceman — six of which played at a high level in Sunday’s 4-0 blanking of the New Jersey Devils. Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said the team has confidence in Dumba’s effectiveness but was reluctant to tinker with their current defensive situation in Tuesday’s game against the Flames.
And whether Dumba stays or goes also depends on how confident the team is in their depth in their system with their American Hockey League affiliate Iowa Stars.
But sooner or later, something has to be decided.
“Again, my job is to focus on our team and to think about what we need, not just today, but what we need going forward,” Yeo said. “My job is to worry about his development. There are other factors that go into that but, at some point, I do think — and I’ve said this many times — young players do have to play. Obviously, he would have to play. That’s something we’ll look at.”
As the Wild’s seventh overall pick from the 2012 entry draft, the hard-hitting, smooth-skating Dumba made his debut against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 5. He scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 12 against Dallas — a power play marker, roofing one post-in off a Dany Heatley feed — when he logged 15:02 of icetime on 22 shifts.
The learning curve is a big one, sure, and sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch is not where any hockey player really wants to be.
But, at the moment, Dumba, who was one of the first ones on the ice Tuesday and the last one to leave, is simply happy to be where he’s at.
“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “I want to be here as long as I can and, hopefully, make the full year out of it. It depends on how you look at (the situation) and I’m not going to look at the negatives or see it as a bad thing, like, ‘Poor me.’ I’m 19 years old and in the NHL right now. It’s awesome coming to the rink every day, knowing there might be that chance I might get in the lineup.
“That’s what I’m working for.”
Which, frankly, is no chore for the teenager.
“I come to the rink every day, put on my skates, and go on the ice like everyone else,” said Dumba who lives with 25-year-old winger Justin Fontaine. “I know that every day . . . it’s just a process. I’m willing to stick to it and do whatever it takes. You can’t even really describe it. Overall, it’s crazy. It’s really awesome. It’s everything you dream of and more.”
And the Twin Cities aren’t bad either.
“I definitely like this town,” he said, grinning. “They like their hockey like they do in Calgary. It’s nice to be in a city that really enjoys the game and knows what they’re talking about.”
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