Mathew Dumba scored his first NHL goal on Saturday. He played a NHL career-high 15 minutes and 30 seconds on Monday. He's seen time on the power play.
But on Tuesday evening, the 19-year-old rookie defenceman sat in the press box and watched his Minnesota Wild drop a 4-1 decision on the road to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So goes the life of a teenager hoping to stick in the NHL. Like his buddy Morgan Rielly of the Maple Leafs, Dumba knows that nine-game threshold is approaching. He has four games under his belt this season. He has helped the Wild get off to a good start, but he doesn't know which sweater he will be pulling over his shoulders next month, the Wild or his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels.
"It's been fun," Dumba said. "It's been fun coming to the rink every day and chasing a dream, doing whatever you can to stay in the lineup.
"[The nine-game threshold] is there in the back of your mind. But it's also something that is out of my control. I'm doing everything I can to stay here. Hopefully, in the end, the people making the decisions see it the way I do."
The primary person making the decision on Dumba's immediate future is Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher. So far the Minnesota GM has liked what he has seen in Dumba. He likes the way that through four games anyway Dumba's ice has increased. As long as Dumba continues to get meaningful ice time, he will stick.
Fletcher remarked that at this point he's not sure Dumba would benefit from a fourth season in junior. The Wild GM also knows that his young blue liner is getting quite an education playing alongside and watching the likes of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin and mentored by one of the best defensive coaches in the business in Rick Wilson.
There also is the possibility that Dumba sticks with the Wild for the next six weeks and then is loaned to the Canadian junior team. When Fletcher was on the Florida Panthers management team in 1995-96, they sent a 19-year-old Rhett Warrener to the Canadian junior team.
Warrener had played only 10 games for the Panthers in the first two months of the season, went on to thrive at the world junior tournament and returned to become a regular in Florida and help the Panthers advance all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
Plenty of time, options
"I'm not saying one way or another what we'll do because there still is plenty of time before we have to make a decision," Fletcher said. "But there are options."
The Regina-born Dumba, who moved to Calgary at age eight, was cut at the Canadian junior selection camp the past two years, but he did attend the summer development camp with Rielly in Brossard, Que.
Even though he's only 19, Dumba did spend a week with the Wild last January when the lockout-shortened season got under way. He didn't play, but he witnessed first-hand the speed of the NHL and what he had to work on when he returned to play for head coach Brent Sutter and the Rebels.
He then joined the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston after his junior year had concluded. He played three regular season games and another five in the Calder Cup playoffs before joining the Wild as a black ace for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's all a huge process and I think they've done a great job with me," Dumba said. "They've been taking their time with me and they have given me lots of opportunity. Last year being able to play in the AHL was a huge step. It helped my confidence and helped my preparation for the start of this season."
There is no doubt the 6-foot, 183-pound Dumba has plenty of skill and an eye-catching skating stride he honed on the backyard rinks his Dad Charlie built in Regina and Calgary.
Dumba is passionate about the game, another trait passed on from his Father, who was a decent player as a teenager and later became a referee. Charlie still refs beer league games and there were a few times he officiated minor hockey games his son was involved in.
"My Dad loves the game," Dumba said. "I'm thankful for his support.
"When I was little he did a couple games when they needed a referee. I think I may have talked back to him at one time and after we had to have a little talk."
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