MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Wild feel this is their best team in franchise history — they have a combination of veterans from Mikko Koivu to Zach Parise.
They also have a few difference-making youngsters like defenseman Matt Dumba, who’s done a lot of growing up this season, and will play a bigger role in the coming playoffs.
“He’s got a heck of a shot that we’ve already seen in this series,” teammate Charlie Coyle said.
Many will remember Dumba from his strange goal celebration earlier this season — talking to his elbow. But Dumba ignores the speculation.
“I don’t know what you guys are talking about,” he said in the locker room.
He hasn’t been playing anything like a rookie, learning what it’s like to be in his first playoffs.
“He hasn’t looked out of place at all. He’s been great for us,” Coyle said. “For a guy that young to come in, play his first playoffs against this team, he’s been awesome for us.”
At just 20 years old, Dumba is the youngest player on either team in this series. A young guy, with the potential to make a big difference in the outcome.
“I know there’s gonna be chances and opportunities and I think I’m a skilled enough player that when that opportunity does come up, hopefully I can make a play on that,” he said.
The rookie spent a month and a half in the minors this season. But since returning to Minnesota in mid-January, he’s been rock-solid, leading all rookie defensemen in plus-minus, and leading the Wild in puck possession. That’s a big deal in Mike Yeo’s system.
“There’s a lot of different factors that went into that. And it was good for me to have this learning curve,” Dumba said. “Getting some time up here, getting experience, knowing what it takes to be a pro, and then having a little stint in Iowa.”
He also says he’s noticed his improvement lately.
“I’ve taken steps — big steps — along the way, and it’s all coming together right now,” he said.