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Wild defenseman Dumba tries to follow Brodin's lead

by Tal Pinchevsky

TORONTO -- The Minnesota Wild were thrilled that 2011 first-round pick Jonas Brodin emerged as a defensive workhorse last season. They'd like 2012 first-round pick Mathew Dumba to do the same this fall.

"I hope I get the same [opportunity]," Dumba told at this week's NHL Players Association Rookie Showcase. "Just go in there with my hard work and determination and earn that. Hopefully I can do the great things he did. He had an awesome season.

"We're really good friends. He's a great guy and he deserves that. It was pretty cool seeing him make the transition so smooth. When he's out there, it almost looks effortless. He's an awesome guy."

Brodin, a Swede who was the 10th player drafted in 2011, averaged 23:12 of ice time, playing mostly with Norris Trophy finalist Ryan Suter. But things didn't go quite as smoothly for Dumba after he was the seventh player taken in the draft a year later.

In December, Dumba was one of the final cuts made by the Canada national junior team, marking the second straight year he would not fulfill one of his childhood dreams of competing in the World Junior Championship. Dumba did make the Wild's opening-night roster out of training camp but did not dress for any games before being returned to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Despite missing several games in January, Dumba tied for 18th in scoring among WHL defensemen.

The 19-year-old has another chance to make this year's Canada team for the World Junior, but his primary goal is playing with the Wild alongside his friend. That mission will start when training camp opens in September.

"They said, 'Just come into camp and be ready. Be ready for everything,'" Dumba said. "There are going to be mistakes. You need to learn to battle through that and just be sharp. That continued improvement is one of the things that will really push me to the next level and maybe help me stay."

Staying with the Wild would make it easier to continue his close friendship with Brodin. Minnesota's top two defensive prospects met last year at development camp. They were roommates at orientation and became fast friends. Though they spent most of the season hundreds of miles away, the two were able to keep in touch with the occasional phone call or text message.

"We're buddies now. He teaches me some Swedish here and there. I only know normal greetings and chirps," Dumba said. "We didn't really talk too much about hockey. We would talk about music. He's big into his house music. He loves that stuff. I know what's going on in the hip-hop and rap side of things."

Dumba said he and Brodin can find harmony together on the ice. He's looking to get started with a Brodin-like rookie season in 2013-14.

"I hope that I can do that. Just like Jonas did," Dumba said. "You kind of see it and hope maybe one day that can be a possibility. But we're a long ways from that. [There's] still a lot of hard work between then and now."

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