It’s that time of year again when the junior programs across the world start to enter the spotlight. Yes, the World Junior Hockey Championships are right around the corner and as the twelve teams start to assemble their rosters with hopes of capturing gold, we’ll spend some time leading up to the tourney previewing the Minnesota Wild prospects that have a shot at playing in this year’s tournament.
Team Canada recently released their list of invites that will take part in the selection camp between December 10-15 in Calgary, Alberta. The Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the list for Canada, who is always the odds on favorite to win it all, but also on the list is the Wild’s young defensive prospect, Mathew Dumba.
Dumba, selected seventh overall of last year’s NHL Entry Draft by Minnesota stands in at 6’0″ and has been a cornerstone on the blue line for his Red Deer Rebels club of the WHL.
Through 28 games this season Dumba has recorded 6 goals and 9 assist for 15 points but is a disappointing minus-3 on the season. The Rebels are currently in fourth place in the Eastern division and given how much head coach Brent Sutter preaches defence, Dumba’s plus/minus rating is a bit surprising. This could be viewed as a negative when assessing Dumba’s chances of making Team Canada.
TSN’s hockey insider Bob McKenzie recently broke down Canada’s defensive corps and to quote him “Canada’s blue line will remain deep and strong.”
Team Canada recently lost stud defenceman, Ryan Murray who belongs to the Columbus Blue Jackets when he underwent shoulder surgery and is out for the year. But as McKenzie points out there are still plenty of options to solidify the back end for Canada which means Dumba will face a tough test and could be on the outside looking in when camp opens.
McKenzie has the Bruins’ Dougie Hamilton and Toronto’s Morgan Reilly as the top D-pairing, followed by Scott Harrington of the Penguins and Xavier Ouellet of the Red Wings. Harrington and Hamilton are returnees from last year’s bronze medal team so they are all but a lock for the club.
Ryan Murphy is the next name that McKenzie mentions as a possible lock for the team based on his offensive abilities that will strengthen any powerplay. Throw in the fact that he’s currently playing for the Kitchener Rangers, the same team that Team Canada head coach Steve Spott coaches and it’ll be difficult to deny Murphy a spot as one of the seven defencemen.
So that’s five names that are likely to be suiting up for Canada this holiday season and we have not yet penciled in Dumba’s name.
McKenzie lists Dumba in a group of other big name blue liners including Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil-Kings, so Dumba is getting some praise from the hockey insider.
He has a chance to make the club, but with only two spots available and seven other defencemen vying for a chance to wear the maple leaf, Dumba will have to impress early and often at the selection camp.
The key will be shutting down the scoring chances in his own end. He needs to control the defensive zone and prove to the Team Canada brass that he has what it takes to shut down the other team’s top line. There will be plenty of firepower from the other d-men so Dumba’s best chance to make the club is as a defensive specialist. Given that he leads all Rebels defenceman in scoring, the defensive specialist may not be his strong suit, making his chances of securing a spot more difficult.
In the end I think Dumba will make the squad albeit as the seventh defenceman. We’ve seen in the past that Canada will sometimes dress seven defenceman and cut back on the forwards. But in this case Dumba may be forced to sit in the stands with a clipboard, watching and cheering on his fellow countrymen in Russia. Regardless of his role, ask Dumba if he’d gladly be a healthy scratch if it meant being a part of the team and I’d be willing to bet he’d sign up for that on the spot.
Good luck to Matthew Dumba as he tries to make Team Canada. Hopefully we’ll be able to watch him on the ice over the holidays and us Minnesota Wild fans will be proud to call him one of our own.
Next up we’ll feature Tyler Graovac, another Wild prospect who will attempt to crack Team Canada’s forward lineup.
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