The 2012 NHL Draft class is full of big, top quality, two-way defencemen. Red Deer Rebels Mathew Dumba is among that group but has sparked the interest of many teams and scouts and somehow stands apart from the others. His gritty and dynamic two-way style combined with his spirited personality, competitiveness and true passion for the game makes him possibly one of the most unique d-men on the list.
Scouts describe him as an explosive skater with a big shot and a knack for delivering huge open-ice hits with a six-foot, 172-pound body. He has excellent puck handling skills, good lateral movement and quick feet. They say he makes very few mistakes on the ice and can recover quickly from the ones he does.
“I think when you compare all the skills of the defencemen, what makes me stand out is my work ethic and my willingness to compete and win every battle,” said Dumba at the NHL Scouting Combine. “I hate to lose and I bring that every day and want to get better every day, so I can get to that next level.”
The Calgary, AB native was the WHL Rookie of the Year for the 2010-2011 season after recording 15 goals and 11 assists and 83 penalty minutes in 62 games.
This season, Dumba improved to 20 goals, 37 assists and 67 penalty minutes in 69 games. He is ranked 11th by NHL Central Scouting heading into this year’s NHL Draft. He turned a few extra heads last week at the NHL Scouting Combine finishing in the top 10 in nine different categories including: 8th in push-ups (38), 2nd in the mat jump/jump height, tied for 9th in the VO2Max bike test, 7th in vertical jump and 8th in hand-eye coordination.
“It was pretty much what I expected,” Dumba said after his testing. “It was a pretty neat experience I enjoyed it and just worked hard. When you’re doing the fitness testing, I just dialed in. I’m pretty good at concentrating at one task at a time and bearing down so I think I did really well.”
Dumba has always been looked at as a risk-taker type of player who is a little bit rambunctious on the ice, a part of the game that he wanted to focus this season on cleaning up, which he managed to do quite well.
“All season the coaching staff in Red Deer have helped me become more of a reliable player on the ice,” he credited. “To take on more responsibility and be more accountable in all areas of the ice.
“You get to the NHL and everyone is a man, they are big and strong so you definitely have to pick your spots. When I get to that next level I think I can rely on my skating. I think I can skate with the best, that’s what allows me to be versatile and play in the situations that I do.”
When he was asked who he turns to for advice at this stage of his career, he was quick to point out a former teammate, Alex Petrovic. Petrovic played five seasons with the Red Deer Rebels and was drafted by the Florida Panthers at the 2010 NHL Draft.
“He’s been through it all and we’ve been doing it together too. It’s been lots of fun with him. I’m really proud of everything he’s taught me. All the talks on the bus and the phone calls have helped and I’m appreciative to have a guy like that.”
With the draft just two-weeks away, Dumba remembered back to when another teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had his name called first overall.
“I remember going to the draft last year and watched Nuge’ (Nugent-Hopkins) go number one, it was pretty awesome. I was thinking, man this is a long ways away; I still have a year and so much in between. But, everything in between has been awesome and great experience for me and I’m happy we’re here now.
“It’s exciting that all the tough stuff…the games and fitness testing is done and now it’s just waiting. I’m just going to try to enjoy it and relax.”
There is no crystal ball as to where Dumba will end up or how he’ll fit in with the NHL team that selects him but he sure is anxious to find out which road he’ll head down.
“There are so many paths to get to the NHL and be a great NHL’er,” said Dumba. “You look at guys like Shea Weber or Duncan Keith who went the AHL route and they are doing amazing. You look at Drew Doughty; he went straight in so, for me, I don’t know what that route is yet so I guess we’ll see.”