Tonight, the Minnesota Wild fight for their playoff lives in what will undoubtedly be a thrilling, heart-pounding decisive Game Seven against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. They’re not the only players within the team’s organization still playing postseason hockey.
Though the Iowa Wild didn’t make the playoffs, a pair of prospects are still playing prominent roles on their respective Canadian Hockey League teams. Defenseman Mathew Dumba–drafted seventh overall by Minnesota in 2012–of the Portland Winterhawks and undrafted free agent signee Zack Mitchell of the Guelph Storm have played key roles in leading their teams to the finals of the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League, respectively.
Dumba started out the 2013-14 season with the Wild, playing 13 games and scoring a power play goal and an assist for two points and a negative-5 rating all while skating a nightly average of 12:26 per game. He left the team in mid December to join Team Canada as an assistant captain on the Under-20 team. In seven games during the 2014 World Junior Championships, he would score just one assist and finished with a plus-4 rating. Instead of returning to the big club, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher felt Dumba’s development would be better served by finishing out the season and going on a deep playoff run with Portland, who had recently acquired his WHL rights from the Red Deer Rebels.
That move may have paid off big time. In 26 regular season games, Dumba scored at nearly a point-per-game pace with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points and a plus-31 rating. He’s been just as good in the playoffs, scoring three goals and nine assists for 12 points and a plus-20 rating in 14 games. Portland is set to drop the puck against the Edmonton Oil Kings in a battle for the Ed Chynoweth Cup and the league title. There’s no question Dumba has been a big reason why they’ve made it so far.
In the OHL, Zack Mitchell and the Guelph Storm have taken the league by storm. An undrafted free agent over-ager, Mitchell signed an entry-level deal with the Wild that is set to begin starting next season. In his fifth season in the “O”, the 6’0″ 184-pound right winger has been exceptional, scoring 31 goals and 52 assists for 83 points and a plus-52 rating in 67 games–good enough for 20th in the league in total point scoring. If that’s impressive, he’s absolutely blown down the doors in the playoffs, leading all OHL skaters with 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points and a plus-16 rating in 15 games. Mitchell and the Storm will play the North Bay Battalion in the league finals to decide who gets to hoist the J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champion.
Both prospects represent what it takes to build a successful Stanley Cup contender–you have to draft well and be shrewd when it comes to undrafted free agent signings. One day, they’ll be teammates. However, if things go as planned, they may have to play each other for one more key trophy before that happens–the Memorial Cup. What a matchup that’ll be.