Mathew Dumba has been here before.
After surprisingly making the team out of camp last year as an 18-year-old, Mathew Dumba waited for his shot to play for the Minnesota Wild, all while practicing with the team, and learning what it takes to play in the NHL. And he waited for nine games, until he was eventually sent down to his junior squad in Red Deer without having his NHL debut under his belt.
Dumba spent his time in Red Deer working on his consistency and defensive game, and came into camp with the Wild determined to not only make the roster, but to stick with the Minnesota Wild. He ended up impressing, and appeared to be penciled in to skate with the Minnesota Wild's opener against the Los Angeles Kings. However, the Wild decided to attempt to minimize the pressure on his debut, and delayed his first NHL game by two days.
Since young defensemen are typically moved along more slowly than forwards, it wasn't exactly time to start the #FreeMatDumba campaign. But with him being on the roster last season, and having his debut pushed back, it's been an exercise in patience, for both him and the fans.
Mathew Dumba was selected with the 7th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. The Red Deer Rebel is defined by his dynamic style of play. He has high-end speed, a huge shot, and is known for his big-hit ability, especially impressive for someone of his 6'0" frame. While he has very good offensive skills, his defensive game is pointed out as an area he needs to continue to develop. If he does does develop that consistency, he has the potential to be a top-level defenseman, as well as an almost perfect complement to Jonas Brodin's skillset.
However, that's down the road. As for right now? The Wild and their fanbase were completely spoiled last year with Brodin, who was so advanced that he stepped into the lineup right away and looked like a 10-year NHL veteran. While you can never say "never", especially with a talented prospect like Dumba, it's extremely unlikely that we'll see the same sort of thing in his first NHL year. Like many 19-year-defensemen (provided they're human), Dumba will have a learning curve and make mistakes. There's a big possibility he just gets a cup of coffee this year before getting sent down to Red Deer for another year of development in Junior. Do not be worried or panicked if these things happen. A season like Brodin had is an incredible exception, not the norm. Dumba can have a tough 8 games, be sent to Red Deer, and still be one of the brightest defenseman prospects in the game come next year.
As for tonight, Dumba will be skating with Keith Ballard, who played well in his own Wild debut on Thursday. He may even play on the 2nd Power Play with the other jewels of the Wild's system, which I hope happens, even for only a bit. It's so rare to see so much young talent together on the ice at the same time that it's quite an exciting thought that we could be seeing it as soon as tonight.
Dumba was full of smiles when he talked to the media this morning, and full admitted that he hadn't stopped smiling since Yeo told him yesterday he would be playing. His parents, who have been in town for a few days, will be on hand at the Xcel tonight to watch their son live out his dream.
His biggest concern tonight is making sure that he continues to communicate with Ballard on the ice to make sure they are aware of each others position. Both players harbor the same tendencies to jump into the play, but have spent a lot of time focusing on making sure one of them stays behind the play a bit
Anyway, congratulations to Matt Dumba! Hopefully, this is the first game of a long, excellent career with the Wild.
Author's note: Quotes and descriptions from Dumba's media availability this morning were provided by Emilie. Huge thanks to her.