Defenseman Mathew Dumba decided last year to visit the NHL draft, one year before he was eligible to be selected.
So, Dumba made his way to St. Paul and the Xcel Energy Center, the location of last year’s festivities, and enjoyed his time in Minnesota. He’s going to get plenty used to visiting the Xcel Energy Center now that the Minnesota Wild made him the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft.
“I think back to the draft last year and the city and how it was awesome for the draft last year,” Dumba told the team’s website. “It’s world-class. I’m so excited.”
Even with a surprise forward prospect available to them with the No. 7 pick Friday, the Wild instead decided to add more defensive depth by selecting Dumba, who had 20 goals and 37 assists last season for Red Deer in the Western Hockey League. He was considered one of the better defenseman in a draft heavily weighted toward the defensive side, an aspect that played to Minnesota’s lack of prospect depth at the position.
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Dumba, who will turn 18 in July, is a 6-foot, 183-pound defenseman who plays an all-around game. Strong at both ends of the ice, Dumba can play a physical game and has a good shot from the blue line, which will help the Wild’s power play.
“Mat is an exciting young right shot D-man with an excellent combination of skill, mobility, and physicality,” Minnesota assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. “He’s been a leader and point producer everywhere he’s been.”
In somewhat of a surprising turn of events, Swedish forward Filip Forsberg was still available when Minnesota was on the clock. Forsberg was rated as the top European skater on the NHL Central Scouting Service’s final rankings. Dumba, the fifth defenseman taking in the top seven picks, was the 11th-ranked North American skater.
Dumba was the captain of Team Canada during the 2012 U-18 World Championships and led all tournament scorers with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) as Canada won the bronze medal. He also led all defenseman in scoring last season in the WHL.
The seventh pick was the highest selection by Minnesota since it drafted Benoit Pouliot with the fourth pick in 2005. Dumba had no idea the Wild would be the team making the call for his services. He knew he would be an early pick and seemed overjoyed when he found out he’d be returning to St. Paul again.
“I knew kind of the range, but it’s a surprise to me,” Dumba said of waiting to hear his name. “It’s a hockey state, right by the border in Canada. I’m really excited. This opportunity is so amazing and I look to embrace it.”
Dumba said he patterns his game after another Canadian two-way defenseman; Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty.
“I’m a versatile defenseman,” Dumba said. “I play on both sides of the puck, and I like to hit. I like to join in the offense. I’m good on the D-side of things. I’m just a fun, passionate guy.”
The Wild have a stable of young forwards on the cusp of making the NHL roster, possibly as soon as this season, with Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Brett Bulmer, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson and Zack Phillips.
Many of the team’s young defensemen are already on the NHL roster, including Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser and Steven Kampfer. Jonas Brodin, selected with the No. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft, is the only defenseman ranked among Minnesota’s top prospects. Brodin is already signed to a pro contract and could make his way to the NHL this season after playing last year in Sweden.
Dumba was also teammates with another Wild prospect, goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who played 19 games last season for Minnesota’s minor league team in Houston.
“I had some good interviews with Minnesota,” Dumba told Fox Sports North’s Anthony LaPanta. “Once they said the next player was from Red Deer, Alberta, I knew it was me, and I just shot up. I was so happy.”
And while the Wild could have several young players in Minnesota next year, Dumba isn’t ruling out that he could be one of them despite the normal track being a return to junior hockey.
“Well, this summer I’m going to prepare myself to play next year,” Dumba said.
“But, really, (the decision) comes down to the coaching staff. … But, I know I’m going to prepare myself, and I want to be there next year.”