The Minnesota Wild is deep in the middle of one last push to punch its playoff ticket for the second season in a row. With the Wild blue line looking quite shallow as of late, the team is said to be seriously considering recalling top prospect Mathew Dumba from Portland of the Western Hockey League.
Though Minnesota did pull out a 4-3 overtime victory against the Red Wings at the “Joe” in Detroit yesterday, they did so minus top-6 defensemen Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard. Ballard missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury, while Stoner is considered “week-to-week” with a sprained knee. That means the Wild’s remaining healthy defensemen are Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser and recent Iowa Wild call-up Jonathon Blum. With 10 games to go, there’s no guarantee any one of these defenders will still be healthy and in the lineup come the start of the playoffs.
If Dumba is recalled, there’s a good chance it’ll just be until either Ballard or Stoner is healthy as call-ups from the Canadian major juniors are temporary if the player’s CHL team is still alive in the postseason. That said, Dumba’s playing for the Winterhawks, and–the way they’ve been playing–they’re all but guaranteed to win the WHL championship and advance to the Memorial Cup. However, if he receives the call, some NHL ice time certainly won’t hurt his production when he rejoins Portland–it may even be to his advantage.
When Dumba began the season, he was rotating between Stoner and Ballard on Minnesota’s third defensive pairing, notching a power play goal and an assist for two points and a negative-5 rating in 13 games. A relatively disappointing U-20 World Junior tournament still couldn’t hide the fact that Canada’s coaching and scouting staff was so impressed by the dynamic defenseman that they would name him one of the team’s assistant captains. From Malmo, Sweden, Dumba would go straight to Portland, who had acquired his WHL rights from the Red Deer Rebels via trade earlier in the season. In 26 regular season games since, Minnesota’s top selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has scored eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points and a plus-31 rating in what is arguable the toughest and most well-rounded junior hockey league on the planet.
With the regular season now behind them, Dumba and the Winterhawks are currently up two games to none on the Vancouver Giants. In those games, Dumba has two assists and a plus-1 rating. While Portland is probably loath to give up such an asset on their blue line, it may ultimately be for Dumba’s best interest to get back to the NHL game after a confidence-boosting stint in the “W”.
While this is all still speculation at this point, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has asked Shep Harder, the team’s director of hockey administration, to inquire with the league as to whether or not they’ve met the strict conditions that would allow them to recall Dumba from the major junior ranks. I wouldn’t hold your breath just yet, folks, but anything can happen.