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High-energy Dumba could be risky pick that pays off

by Mike G. Morreale

The team that has defenseman Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels in its crosshairs during the early stages of the first round of the NHL Draft has undoubtedly come to grips with the fact they're getting a gunslinger along the blue line.

When NHL Central Scouting held its final meetings in April to determine the top 210 draft-eligible skaters from North America, Dumba dropped four spots to No. 11.

The reason for the dip was the fact most scouts considered the energetic Dumba the highest risk/reward prospect available. It's something that didn't take him by surprise.

Red Deer defenseman Mathew Dumba is a high-risk prospect who could really pay off for the team that picks him in the NHL Draft. (Photo: Getty Images)

"You have to control your emotions, I guess," Dumba told "You don't want to get too anxious or let all the nerves get to you, but at the same time you want to be fired up for the game and go out there and perform. I'm learning to keep it simple and just play your game … let it flow. But it's difficult when you're trying to balance all your different emotions that you're going through."

Bottom line is this: It makes no sense to compare Dumba with the other top defensemen eligible for this year's draft, to be held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh, because the Calgary native has a unique, take-it-or-leave-it style. What is known is Dumba (5-foot-11 3/4, 173 pounds) has all the makings of a potential NHL star. It just comes down to which team is willing to take that leap of faith.

"It's difficult because the one characteristic that Dumba brings [more] than the other guys is the fact his competitive level is off the charts," NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told "He comes and wants to make a difference in a game and sometimes he tries too hard and maybe gets caught out of position. Other times he doesn't, but even if he does make a mistake, he always seems to make up for it."

Central Scouting ranked six defensemen ahead of Dumba on the final North American list: No. 2 Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, No. 5 Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors, No. 6 Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67's, No. 8 Olli Maatta of the London Knights, No. 9 Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program and No. 10 Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings.

"Compete-wise, you've got to like the way he's prepared to play every game," MacDonald said of Dumba. "He may have more lows than the other guys [ranked ahead of him], but his desire to make a difference for his team is huge. He does bring more of a physical element than Murray or Rielly."


Dumba topped all defensemen in the Western Hockey League with 20 goals while also dishing out 37 assists in 69 games with the Rebels in 2011-12. He captained Team Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, winning a gold medal. He also wore the "C" for his country at the 2012 U-18 World Championship, leading the tournament with 12 points in seven games to capture a bronze medal.

"He has a ton of skills and is a guy who will come at you hard in the corners and plow you down," Central Scouting's David Gregory told "I don't think he's as solid defensively right now as a Ryan [Murray], but he's not afraid to throw his weight around and you can't help but notice him on the ice.

"He'll have that high-energy impact hit in the neutral zone that will make people say, 'Wow.' "

Scouts and general managers also couldn't help noticing him at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, where Dumba finished among the top 10 in three events, including sixth in the standing long jump and eighth in push-ups.

The disappointment of not earning a roster spot for Team Canada for the 2012 World Junior championship was certainly on Dumba's mind, particularly in his draft year.

After surviving the first round of cuts, Canada head coach Don Hay at the time explained his reasoning behind releasing Dumba.

"Matt Dumba is an elite player and we knew he would do well here, but is he ready for this tournament at this time?" Hay asked. "We don't think so."

"He comes and wants to make a difference in a game and sometimes he tries too hard and maybe gets caught out of position. Other times he doesn't, but even if he does make a mistake, he always seems to make up for it."
-- NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald on Mathew Dumba

"It was very difficult for me," Dumba admitted. "It was one of my dreams for the last four or five years, ever since I knew [the tournament] was in Calgary. That had been one of my goals and I worked so hard to get there, and I thought performed very well at the development camp and was playing some of my best hockey. Moving forward, and coming back to Red Deer, I wanted to use that experience to really help the team."

Dumba was one of 28 players named to represent Canada at the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge in August. Hockey Canada will choose 22 players to represent the country at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia.

The excitement of getting another opportunity to represent Canada at the WJC is one thing, but the draft is what consumes Dumba at this point.

"My stress level is pretty low," Dumba recently wrote in his draft blog for "I've come to the point where I know really everything is out of my hands. I've done everything I can do. Now it's just time to let the cards fall where they may.

"People keep asking me if I have any idea what teams are interested in me, and to tell you the truth, no, not really. As far as that goes, I don't really know at all. All the teams in that area where I'm ranked haven't really said anything. They're keeping their cards held tight. I'm excited to find out."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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