The Minnesota Wild took defenceman Mathew Dumba with their first-round pick in the NHL draft on Friday night with the seventh overall selection.
The 17-year-old Dumba played the last two seasons for the Red Deer Rebels in Alberta of the Western Hockey League, leading WHL defencemen in the 2011-12 season with 20 goals in 69 games. He is a hard hitter with a big right-handed shot and plenty of offensive skill who also served as captain for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championships earlier this year. Dumba led the entire tournament in scoring by tallying five goals and seven assists in seven games.
"He's been a leader and a point producer everywhere he's been," Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said.
With a half-dozen prospects, all recent draft picks, turning pro this season, the Wild approached this selection with the future in mind, not seeking an immediate-impact player. Dumba doesn't turn 18 until July 25, but he told reporters in Pittsburgh, the site of this year's draft, he's not willing to simply accept he's not ready yet for the NHL.
"My will is strong, and I want to go somewhere and compete for a position next year," Dumba said.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Dumba is a native of Regina, Saskatchewan. He was ranked as the 11th-best North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Service.
"I think my game is very versatile. I do believe in my skills where I can do it all almost," Dumba said.
Eight of the first 10 picks in the NHL draft this year were defencemen, a development that fit the Wild well. Though these drafts are usually for two or three years down the road, the Wild are well-stocked with young forwards even if offensive production was a point of weakness for them last season. The blue line isn't as deep, from the NHL roster down through the entire system.
The evening was dominated by a trade the hometown Penguins made, sending forward Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes. That is the kind of splash the Wild made when they hosted the event last summer, dealing defenceman Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks. Rounds two through seven are set for Saturday, but it's unlikely the Wild will make a similar move this weekend.
They are poised to be aggressive when free agency begins on July 1, and they are figuring on fewer available roster spots this fall with a bunch of top prospects headlined by Mikael Granlund entering the fold.