Full disclosure here: I love Mathew Dumba.
Back in the days where I wrote my own crappy, defunct blog (Jacques Lemaire's Trap: The Most Boring and Uninteresting Wild Blog on the Internet), I advocated for, and celebrated when the Wild selected Mathew Dumba with the 7th Overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and have been a strong backer of Dumba ever since. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen even more extreme examples of Dumba love. I say very often that I can't be rational about Mat Dumba.
Why am I telling you this, and linking a bunch of terrible blog posts from 2012? I'm putting my biases on the table, and telling you that I, in fact, will try to be completely rational and unbiased throughout this article.
That all said, it would not be at all outlandish to say that Mathew Dumba has the most upside of any player on this list.
Dumba is not only perhaps the most skilled of all the Wild's young players, he is also the most unique. The Fletcher/Brent Flahr brain trust has often favored a steady, simple, two-way brand of defenseman. Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin are the most high-profile of defensemen in that mold that the Wild picked up, but Gustav Olofsson, Louis Belpedio, Jon Blum (assuming he's on the Wild), Christian Folin, and John Draeger are in a similar mode.
Mathew Dumba is not simple. It's just not his style. Dumba is a showman, using his speed, puck skills, shot, and physicality to make big plays, and make them as often as possible.
It's led to some ups-and-downs in his development. Dumba had an excellent draft year playing on the Red Deer Rebels, where he scored 20 goals and 57 points. The next season was much rougher, with Dumba trying to balance his offensive abilities with a more defensively responsible style. The first half of his season was particularly difficult, leading him to be left off the roster for Canada's WJC team. He picked it up in the second half, but only finished with 16 goals and 42 points for Red Deer.
The next year, there were a few more ups. Dumba made the Minnesota Wild, and was good enough to convince Chuck Fletcher to let him play past the 9-game deadline a player has before having to burn a year on his entry-level deal. He was sent down in January to play in the World Junior Championships, finishing his season with the Wild with a goal and assist apiece in 13 games.
The WJCs were the low point in Dumba's year last season, as Dumba labored through the flu, which almost certainly had to do with his one assist in seven games. A healthy Dumba no doubt would have helped Team Canada, which failed to medal for the second consecutive year.
Not to worry, though, after the WJCs, Dumba was assigned to the WHL, and the Portland Winterhawks (perennially one of the W's best teams) had traded for his rights. Skating next to Derrick Pouliot, Dumba tore it up, scoring at almost a point-per game pace during his time with Portland, including a fantastic playoff run.
Fletcher and Mike Yeo would love to see Dumba get experience in the AHL, where due to league transfer rules, he hasn't been allowed to play in. Dumba is currently competing for a spot on the Wild's roster, and is doing everything he can to force the Wild's hand. This is a good thing, as Dumba's tenure with the Wild was very underrated, considering that he was 19 at the time. In 136 5v5 minutes with the Wild, the Wild shot more often with him on the ice than any defenseman, and his defense was better than you'd think. Part of that is because he got sheltered minutes in the offensive zone, but he played with Clayton Stoner two-thirds of the time, so I'd still say he did well. The Wild would definitely benefit from what he has to offer this season.
What Do The Scouts Say?
"A rare blend of elite hitting and elite offensive skills. He is very built and a very energetic player Has a good shot, skating ability, vision, and playmaking skills. He pretty much has it all in terms of offensive package. Strangely enough, he is actually quite good defensively because of good anticipation skills and skating ability."- Dan Chan, formerly of Hockey Wilderness
"He has the ability to make things happen, but he doesn't need to make things happen all the time. There's no denying the athleticism and skill. But I don't think he'll be a top-pairing guy, but he's a guy who probably fits in well as the [offensive counterpart] to a Olofsson or Dumba. I need to be convinced that he can play the tough minutes without making too many errors. But a guy with his skills and competitiveness, the Wild have got to be pretty happy to have him."- Anonymous Scout
"His enthusiasm and offensive instincts are really exciting to see, and his shot is amazing. But it's more than that, it's that every single time he's on the ice, you can tell he is trying to do something, to be the hero, and he's really got the ability and skills.. I really feel like as he grows up and matures, he''s going to figure out how to use his offensive abilities to be the hero without having so many defensive lapses."- Tiffany MacAnnay, Hockey Wilderness
Dumba is a very toolsy defenseman with high-end, if not elite skating ability. His agility, edge work, and four-way movement area ll treat. He also can make a ton of plays with the puck, is very dangerous off the rush, and his shot is also plus. He's hard-working and physical, but his decisions and defensive reads still need work. He has top-pairing tools, but his projection to potentially reach that ceiling has notable uncertainty.- Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
For next season, if Dumba gets time with the Wild, I would expect it's something similar to last year, but with more playing time. He's going to see more sheltered minutes, and he's going to be able to work the Power Play, and the main focus for him will be to use his offensive strengths as much as possible. It would be nice to see him partnered up with a Jared Spurgeon or Ryan Suter for stretches, but my money is on him playing with Jonas Brodin, which would actually be pretty fun to see.
Longer-term, I think he ends up being at a similar level as the player I think Brodin will be, perhaps even forming a complimentary pairing on the Wild's Top-Pairing. Brodin's ability to steadily control games, and Dumba's ambition and ability to make an impact constantly could end up being a nightmare for opponents to face. Dumba may not fulfill his remarkable potential, but his abilities assure him that his floor is that of a power-play specialist (or maybe even a forward/defense rover), and his ceiling is a dynamic player who could be mentioned in the same breath as Dustin Byfuglien and P.K. Subban.