TORONTO -- Mathew Dumba thought he would have this opportunity much earlier.
That's why not even the disappointment of not staying in the NHL is going to put a damper on his time at Hockey Canada's World Junior Championship Selection Camp this weekend at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
Dumba, 19, took the ice for practice Friday in the first of three on-ice sessions before the final team is announced then departs for Malmo, Sweden, the site of the 2014 World Junior Championship.
This is Dumba's third camp but the first in which he faces little pressure to make the team. His play with Red Deer of the Western Hockey League last season and the Minnesota Wild this season has all but assured Dumba a spot on the final roster and a prominent role on the blue line.
Yet he refuses to take anything for granted. The pain of being cut from this team not once, but twice, remains just below the surface and provides a perfect reality check.
"I guess third time is a charm," Dumba said, adding a laugh still tinged with some of the disappointment he harbors about the missed opportunities. "The last two times were completely different, the camps were different. Obviously it [stinks] getting cut.
"As a young guy, that is something that is hard to take. Now that I am here, I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I want to live in the moment and seize every day for what it is for."
Dumba knows the pain he felt after each of the cuts has hardened his resolve and paved the way for him to become a first-round pick (No. 7 in the 2012 NHL Draft) of the Wild and play in the League in each of the past two seasons.
"[This is] a tough team to make, I know that," Dumba said. "For the younger guys that didn't make it to this level or make it to this camp or are going to be cut from camp, it is not the end of the world. There's so many years ahead of you to establish yourself as a hockey player. It doesn't change who you are as a person. Just stay to yourself and keep building and growing and do whatever it takes to get to that next level."
That is the blueprint Dumba followed. He worked on his game, made new goals for himself, and pushed himself to the game's top level with the Wild.
He knew he had to get better in his own zone to succeed, and he dedicated himself to that task.
The results have been strong enough that Canada coach Brent Sutter plans to rely on Dumba heavily, especially early in the tournament. Top defenseman Griffin Reinhart is suspended for the first three games of the event, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
Reinhart was assessed a four-game suspension by the International Ice Hockey Federation in last year's tournament for a slash to the head of Vincent Trocheck of the United States in the semifinals. Reinhart served the first game in the bronze-medal game against Russia.
Dumba knows his role will expand for games against Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia before Reinhart rejoins the team for the game against the United States on New Year's Eve. Dumba said he is fine with the added pressure.
"With [Griffin] out, that's obviously a big loss," Dumba said. "He's a great player. I guess it is something we are not focusing on too much. We have guys that can step up and play a big role and when [Griffin] does get back, the more the merrier I guess."
Dumba's attitude is born from the confidence he has gained since being cut from this team last December. He put up 42 points with the Red Deer Rebels, then made the Wild out of training camp this fall. He had a goal and an assist in 13 NHL games before the Wild loaned him to Canada for the tournament.
"They really liked my play; I thought I was strong as of late," Dumba said of the Wild. "This is just really based on what they thought was best for me and just going out and getting that extra experience."
He knows this will be a different Mathew Dumba on display than the one who was cut each of the past two years. This one will be more confident, more consistent and more adept in his own end. The game, he feels, has slowed down for him and he can process decisions more effectively.
All of that, plus a singular focus on what lies ahead for the next month, he said, will help him make an impact for Canada.
"You want to be in the NHL playing every night, but the reality is that I wasn't," Dumba said. "It's awesome to be here and I just know that I am going to have an awesome experience. I just want to contribute in any way possible and that is in whatever role Brent gives me. I'll just go out and do my thing."
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