As the youngest player at the Team Canada selection camp for the 2011 World Junior Tournament in December, Calgary native Mathew Dumba knew his chances of making the team were slim.
Standing just over five-feet, 11-inches, Dumba was also smaller than most defensemen last winter, another reason it seemed like a long shot to make the roster among 18 and 19-year-old first-round draft picks. Still, it was an emotional blow when he didn’t make the cut, because he believed he could.
Dumba smiled during the process, speaking of his father, a personal mentor, thankful for the opportunity, knowing he would be missing a chance to play in front of his hometown crowd on the world hockey stage.
And while that seemed like a low point for the young player, a lot has changed in nine months time and he seems genuinely happy with his current circumstances. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
In May, Dumba was named Canada’s captain at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Under-18 World Championship in the Czech Republic, leading the team to a Bronze medal finish.
At 17 years old, Dumba was drafted seventh overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2012 NHL Entry draft, a moment he modestly says felt amazing.
“Everything leading up to the draft, all the hype, and it was kind of a relief to get it over with, all the pressure and what not and when it happened, I was just ecstatic,” says Dumba. “I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative of the organization that I went to and I know my whole family was so happy and it was just a great feeling.”
As an assistant captain last season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, Dumba recorded 57 points in 69 games played and he had a chance to continue his growth during the Minnesota Wild Development Camp in July.
Having drafted the defenceman, the staff in Minnesota are confident in his style of play. This is a sentiment Dumba shares, but wants to continue to build on while incorporating new things as he moves forward.
“One of the guys who really helped me out and showed me the ropes was [defenceman] Marco Scandella. He was great to me and I guess everyone was as well as the coaching staff and just little things in the d-zone and they’re all so small but at the end of the day they make a big difference in my game.”
Now, having turned 18 in July and having grown a couple inches (six-foot in the program) Dumba is resembling a much more mature player, recognizing the importance of leadership and knowing his young teammates on the Rebels look to him as someone who’s “made it” in the big leagues.
As one of the older members on his team, he knows how crucial leadership is off the ice, especially around impressionable players and he takes his own leadership as a very serious responsibility.
“To show the guys what it takes to be a pro and really that the work ethic off the ice is just as important as the work ethic on the ice. You gotta be training in the gym and treating your body properly, stretching and doing those little things, because at the end of the day they all make a big difference. The younger guys are always watching me so I’m always trying to do my best.”
Nine months seems like a blip in time in the grand scheme of things, but for Mathew Dumba, nine months has allowed people in the hockey world around him to realize his greater potential and for him to continue to grow into that role.
It’s a role he knows will change in time, but one he’s already accepting as a leader who wants to work hard on a team of players with goals similar to his own, a trait he says he learned from his visit to Minnesota earlier this summer.
“To see those guys go to the rink every day and to put forth that effort, it’s their job and they love doing but they come to the rink with the mindset that they’re going to get better each day. That’s one thing I want to build on, which is continuous improvement. I know that will get me to the level I want to be at and the great player I want to be one day.”