Matt Dumba was picked by the Red Deer Rebels in the Western League draft. (Photo courtesy of Dave Brunner)
For a young defenseman looking to take his game to an elite level, being a Calgary resident is a bit like heaven right now. After all, the hometown Flames trot out blueline stars Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. It’s a trio 15-year-old D-man Matt Dumba plans on studying quite closely this year.
“We’ve got season tickets,” said Dumba, the fourth overall pick in this year’s Western League bantam draft and a big fan of Phaneuf’s. “I love watching him play. And Jay Bouwmeester, I love the way he skates and moves the puck.”
So can Red Deer expect a combination of Phaneuf and J-Bo when Dumba joins the Rebels full-time next season? That may be a little unfair for such a young player, but coach Jesse Wallin was very impressed with his top prospect in the pre-season, where Dumba found the scoresheet on a regular basis.
“He handled himself very well,” Wallin said. “He has great leadership qualities and the confidence and poise you would expect from an 18-year-old player who has been around for a couple years.”
Wallin cited Dumba’s two-way game and puck-moving abilities as his greatest assets, though he would like to see the youngster pick his spots more in the future when it comes to rushing. Nevertheless, the coach likes Dumba’s demeanor.
“His competitiveness is what sticks out,” Wallin noted. “He doesn’t want to be a spectator out there; he wants to make things happen.”
This year, Dumba will be making things happen at the Edge School in Calgary, a sports academy with a fledgling hockey team that will play in the Midwest Prep League, made up mostly of American prep schools such as Illinois’ Lake Forest (alma mater of L.A.’s Teddy Purcell) and St. Francis in New York state (Toronto’s Lee Stempniak).
While the tournament schedule is different from what Dumba would have faced back in midget, where he played for the Calgary Bronks last season, the blueliner is very high on the school’s mixture of education and hockey.
“It’s really neat how it’s set up,” Dumba said. “The rink is right at the school.”
The Edge players also get training and nutrition tips from ex-Florida Panthers guru Andy O’Brien, who has also worked with Sidney Crosby.
“We’ve got a very good facility,” Dumba noted. “It’s world-class.”
The Edge school’s unorthodox season schedule was a little concerning for Wallin, but the coach trusted Dumba and his family in their decision and believes his prized defenseman will be ready for the rough and tumble Dub next year.
“They do see some decent competition,” Wallin said. “It’s (next year) going to be a big step regardless of where he’s coming from.”
Having already played some pre-season WHL games and with the possibility of suiting up in as many as five regular season contests (which may be necessary since key Red Deer blueliner Alex Petrovic went down with an ankle injury), Dumba is excited about a potential opportunity, even if he knows his opponents will want to give him a rude welcome on the ice.
“Obviously I got a little taste of that in the pre-season,” he said. “I just need to keep my feet moving so I don’t put myself in that position.”
And though the learning curve will be steep, Wallin is confident that Dumba will be one of the top 16-year-old blueliners in the Dub next year, something the youngster also plans on accomplishing.
“My expectations are to play full-time as a 16-year-old,” Dumba said. “That’s my goal.”
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, will now go on hiatus, as the season has ended. Thanks to all the players, teams and readers that bought into the concept.
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