Friday, September 13, 2013

One To Watch: Minnesota Wild

An intriguing mix of seasoned vets, actual superstars and a smattering of talented youth on the way. The Minnesota Wild should be a team to consider a threat in the very near future although I'm not sure if that's reasonable to say about this season.

Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin are just the tip of the prospect iceberg that Wild fans enjoyed watching last year. There are a number of guys still in college or junior who could impact the NHL roster in the near future including Mario Lucia, Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, Adam Gilmour, Carson Soucy and Darcy Kuemper. Of course there is a defenceman on the way as well, more on him in a second. 

2013 Choice: Charlie Coyle - Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Coyle's. My question leading into last season was whether he would be able to produce offensively as a pro. That answer came in the form of 25 AHL points in 47 games and 14 more in 37 NHL contests. 

My selection for One To Watch with the Wild for 2013-14 comes after the jump.

Mathew Dumba (D)
Red Deer Rebels
6'0, 181 lbs
Drafted 7th overall in 2012

Photo: Canadian Press
There are a lot of things to like about the Rebels defenceman but for me, there have always been areas of his game that I didn't like and enough for me that I would not have chosen him nearly as high as the Wild did in 2012. His defensive play was the opposite end of the spectrum from his offensive performances. He reputation for being a devastating hitter is well earned, unfortunately so is his tendency to collect penalties and suspensions because the hits are often dangerously illegal.

That said, this will be a big year for Dumba. He's eligible to return to the WHL but stands a reasonable shot at the NHL according to Red Deer play-by-play man Cam Moon who put his odds at 50-50 recently when appearing on my show

Early reports from Minnesota are that Dumba has played well in camp and, most notably, for his defensive play. Credit that improvement to the mid-season return to Red Deer of coach Brent Sutter. Under Sutter, Dumba got his act together playing much better in his own zone and much less recklessly with the hitting. 

Photo: Dave Brunner
He was an invite to Canada's U20 camp last year but was cut. This year he is expected to be on the team that heads to Sweden unless he's busy in the NHL.    

Dumba collected 42 points in 62 games last year with the Rebels and should be able to beat his career high of 57 if he's back in the WHL this year. If he's in Minnesota, will his junior playing style transition with him to pro? He's not undersized but at 6' and only 180 lbs, will he be able to hammer man-sized opposition forwards like he has the 16-20 year olds he's been playing against for the last 3 years?

Those are huge questions and that's what makes Matt Dumba my One To Watch for Minnesota in 2013-14. 

Next Up: The Calgary Flames

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