NHL prospect Matt Dumba has learned to keep it simple
By Vicki Hall, Calgary Herald
June 20, 2012
#5: Calgarian Matt Dumba during the Canadian Under 18 national team inter-squad game on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at the Father Bauer Arena in Calgary.
Photograph by: Dean Bicknell , Calgary Herald
Given a strong dose of truth serum, many Grade 12 students will admit to prolonged lapses of concentration while cramming for diploma exams.
Plans for grad night - or latest gossip on Facebook - are simply more interesting than mastering the properties of quadratic functions or naming simple hydrocarbons.
So pity poor Matt Dumba this week as he dealt with one of the biggest distractions imaginable while prepping for his Social Studies 30 final.
On Tuesday morning, the Calgary product wrote his diploma exam and then rushed to the airport to board a flight.
Destination Pittsburgh, for the NHL entry draft.
"I do pretty good at school, so I'll be all right," Dumba said the night before one of the wildest mornings imaginable. "It's multiple choice. We're studying the ideology of liberalism and how it's embedded in everything in our society.
"It's all about individual rights and collective rights."
In any given year, only 30 young men on the planet have the right to call themselves NHL first-round draft picks. This year, Dumba is pegged to be one of them.
In the final report from Central Scouting, Dumba is ranked 11th overall. The International Scouting Service (ISS) has the Red Deer Rebels blueliner rated fifth overall.
No wonder Dumba had to force himself to concentrate Tuesday morning on the task at hand.
"I'm at the point I'm excited for whatever happens," Dumba said of the draft (not the test). "It's going to be a great day. Everyone is coming down to support me - my mom, my brother, my dad, some aunties and uncles, my trainer and some friends."
In his daydreams, the six-foot, 183-pound defenceman can already envision how the scene will play out.
"My dad will give me a hug," Dumba said. "He will be so proud. My mom will cry. That's where I get my emotions from.
"She's a pretty emotional lady, and she wears her heart on her sleeve."
Emotional is one way to explain the way Dumba patrols the blue line for his Western Hockey League club.
"I think the best way to descried Matt is passionate," said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin. "He just wears his heart on his sleeve. He's a very emotional kid, and he cares very deeply."
For better. Or for worse.
Born in Regina, Dumba learned to skate on a backyard rink built by his dad Charlie on the outskirts of the city. Like many Canadian kids, he fell in love with the game and played in bitterly cold temperatures that most folks would consider unbearable.
"Your skin would freeze," Dumba said. "Literally."
When Dumba was eight, the family moved west to Calgary.
Another city, another backyard rink.
An elite skater, Dumba mastered the fine art of hitting in bantam in Northwest Calgary. The Rebels took notice and claimed Dumba in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2009 bantam draft.
As a 16-year-old, Dumba served notice of his extreme talent by delivering thundering open-ice bodychecks and ragging the puck up ice. He collected 15 goals and 26 points in 62 games and won the WHL award for rookie of the year.
Then came a second season in Red Deer that can only be described as tumultuous. After a solid start, the Rebels ran into injury trouble in mid-November.
"Matty tried to take it on himself to pick up the slack," Wallin said. "He just got away from the details of his game and was trying to do too much. For a six- or seven-week period from the middle of November to early January, I thought he really struggled, and it wasn't for lack of effort.
"It was just from trying to do too much."
During that troublesome stretch, Dumba was the youngest player to try out for the Canadian junior team. On the morning of Dec. 13, he trudged into a hotel lobby at the crack of dawn, swallowed hard and looked straight at the television cameras.
His voice caught several times as he tried to describe the agony of failing to make the cut for the world junior tournament in Edmonton and Calgary.
Six months later, the slight still hurts.
"It was always a dream of mine to play in front of the people of Calgary, in my hometown, and wear the maple leaf on my chest," said Dumba, who went on to captain Canada's under-18 team this spring. "When that came down, it was crushing for me."
Dumba went back to Red Deer from the junior camp with a point to prove. The harder he tried, the worse he played.
His draft ranking suffered as a result.
"It's hard for a guy my age not to look at that stuff," he said. "But it's something I tried to avoid. I don't like looking myself up or anything. It gets in your head, and it's something you don't need.
"When it comes down to it at the end of the day, the guys making the rankings don't have NHL teams. You can't go play for the ISS team or the Central Scouting NHL team. It just comes down to proving yourself to the NHL team that's going to pick you at the draft."
In the midst of his struggles, Dumba met with sports psychologist Derek Robinson. Together they formulated a plan for Dumba to carve out some time for himself, chill out and relax.
On the ice, he kept things simple and resisted the temptation to force things.
His play improved exponentially, and he finished the season with 20 goals and 57 points in 69 games.
"I think Matt is still figuring out what he's going to be," Wallin said. "He's a tremendous open-ice hitter. He has a definite physical aspect that he brings to the table that I think is becoming increasingly rare. He has some offensive ability. His shot is incredible. He can shoot the puck. He can score from the blue line. He's an elite skater. He can take off with the puck and lead a rush when need be.
"But I think within all those skills and talents, he's still learning how to use them to become an all-around defenceman.
"He's just learning the game as all young defencemen are."
Beats studying for diploma exams, any day.
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Original source article: NHL prospect Matt Dumba has learned to keep it simple