If you've been anywhere near this blog since February, you have probably heard me shouting from the proverbial rooftops for the Ducks to have draft Matt Dumba. In fact, suggestions for other selections have been met with a resounding: DRAFT DUMBA!!! It might not necessarily be clear why I am so sold on this kid. He's a little undersized and the biggest knocks on him are about his play in his own end. To be fair, those complaints usually come across as nitpicking more than criticism. I'd like to say that I'm 100% sold on Dumba. He is exactly the player this organization needs. In fact, I am so sold on Dumba, I think the Ducks should consider trading up to make sure they get him. I firmly believe he will be one of the heralded players of this draft. Dumba should be our first, second and third plan on draft day.
Having said all that, it's time to focus on the arguments. This post will detail the two reasons why the Ducks shouldn't be pursuing other players with their first selection in the 2012 draft. First, there isn't a need for a forward in the organization at this time. Second, Dumba is the defenseman we need in this draft.
First, the Ducks don't need forward help in the organization. The Ducks have Nick Bonino and Peter Holland in the middle. That isn't spectacular, but it's serviceable. Holland put up 60 points in 71 games at Syracuse. Bonino found a home as the Ducks third line center this year. Rickard Rakell had a good year for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers with 62 points in 60 games. He's listed as a center there and a RW at Hockey's Futures, so I'll let you all decide if he adds to the organizational depth at that position or not. Raising centers is good, but chasing proven ones can be better. Two of the Kings top 3 centers this year were acquired from outside the organization, either through trade or free agency.
Meanwhile, the Ducks are doing very well on the wings. Emerson Etem demolished the WHL last year, and Devante Smith-Pelly showed he can play at the NHL level and be a physical force. Kyle Palmieri led the Crunch in goals despite getting a long cup of coffee with the Ducks. Patrick Maroon led all scorers on the Crunch, and Max Friberg looked very solid at the World Juniors. The Ducks have talent on the wings. They are certainly a little flimsy in the middle, but they have prospects that can be serviceable or can be used to get a better piece. Also, 2013 looks like a much better free agent class for centers, meaning the Ducks can use Bonino and Holland now, and buy a better second line center later.
However, we are very thin on the back end. Right now the Ducks only have two defensive prospects that have NHL potential. There's the undersized and very offense oriented Sami Vatanen, and the solid Mat Clark. Vatanen hasn't had a chance to show his skating will still be effective on smaller surfaces, and Clark is probably only a top 4 defender with the right partner. With the impending flight of Justin Schultz, the thing the Ducks really need in their cupboard is an impact defenseman. They need someone who can show some promise for the blue line in a couple years when all the veterans are gone. I think the only reason to take a forward with the 6th pick is if Murray, Dumba, Trouba, Reilly and Reinhart all manage to be gone when they pick. That won't happen.
Dumba Is The Defenseman We Need
It's hard to pick a spot to begin, but perhaps the best spot is here. This is the first of two Hockey Writers articles I'll be linking, but it has the most overarching explanation of what makes Dumba a great pick in the upcoming draft.
Reilly can skate like the wind and light the lamp, but Dumba has exceptionally quick feet and great offensive ability as well. Reinhart and Trouba are better defensively and play a physical game, but the defensive game can be learned and Dumba hits as hard as any prospect in recent memory. Ceci has a booming shot, but it’s not like you’ll find players volunteering to block Dumba’s shot from the point. Dumba is an amalgamation of all that is good in the games’ of his defensive draft peers,
Dumba offers a little bit of everything. However, it goes a little farther than that. In an online chat with fans, Craig Button of TSN stated that he uses "hockey playing abilities" to determine his draft rankings. Essentially, he ranks draft prospects based on pure NHL caliber talent. His rankings have Dumba as the number-two talent in the draft.
If you read the scouting reports, including this very comprehensive one from the Hockey Writers' Dustin Twin, you'll see all the usual observances. You'll see that Dumba is an incredibly talented open-ice hitter. He has a quick release wrister that is hard and effective. He has fantastic pure skating ability and phenomenal lateral movement. He is creative in transition offense, but still considered a coachable player. The knocks on him are that he needs to be better in his own zone, he can get caught trying to do too much, and he's a little small for a physical player. But, don't tell that to Francois Beauchemin, who is about the same height as Dumba.
You can learn to be a better defender, we've been watching Cam Fowler do it for the past two years. I don't mind a player who tries to do too much, provided it is for the right reason. Dumba sees himself as a leader and an impact player. He wants to be great, and as Dustin Twin pointed out, that's what will set him apart. Dumba is a whirlwind. He's a high-energy, high-impact player, who can affect the outcome of games. He has the ability and drive to take over a game from the back end. This is a kid who just captained team Canada to its first medal at the Under-18 tournament in four years. He also led the tournament in scoring - yes, he was the top scorer for the entire tournament.
The reason the Ducks truly need Dumba has little to do with his skill set, which is remarkable. As I've read a few interviews and reports, I'm always surprised at how the people who interview him seem to be affected by Dumba. People seem to form very positive opinions of the kid. He has a tenacity and ferocity on the ice that belies is levelheaded approach to interacting with people. The Twin scouting report offers a great story of Dumba smiling through an hour of autographs despite being very ill. This interview with the Edmonton Journal also reveals Dumba's focus on his team and overcoming the adversity of what, at that point, was a tough Red Deer season. He demonstrated that composure again, when he talked to TSN about the Under-18 World Championships. Dumba is a person who is aware of what is going on around him and he acts accordingly.
My favorite thing about Dumba is that he reminds me of Emerson Etem. Etem used to take a four-hour trip on public transit to train. When I was reading up on Etem as a possible selection for the Ducks, I was struck by how together he seemed and how driven he was to succeed. Dumba is the exact same way. There's something about him that inspires people around him. He's a natural leader, and he plays with a fire that is frequently missing in the Ducks. Dumba will be a top pairing defenseman in this league. He's been labeled a high risk/high reward prospect, but his attitude ensures that he will be a reward for the team that is lucky enough to draft him. Dumba will be the perfect compliment to the more even keeled Cam Fowler - the Chris Pronger to his Scott Niedermayer if you will.
Dumba presents an energy and fire that the Ducks need in their blueline. Beauchemin is good at that, but he won't be here forever. Dumba allows us to restock the cupboard, which is completely devoid of elite defenseman, and gain something in an attitude that will help the team. Trouba and Reinhart don't have the pure skill and upside of Dumba. I have maintained for a while, that you can always buy a solid, physical, defensive-defenseman on the free agent market. Trouba and Reinhart's skills can be found. If you look at the King's defense, they featured three skilled puck movers, who they drafted, and three veterans who focused on defense and physical play combined with good puck moving skills.
Dumba is a very unique talent with a unique personality that will benefit this organization. He's determined and he will be a great NHL player. No amount of doubt about his size or defensive acumen will drag him down. He will learn; he will improve, and he will be an impact player in the NHL. The only reason to pass on Dumba is if he isn't there at sixth, which is pretty possible. Dumba is going to be great in a Ducks sweater, launching bombs from the point and crushing anyone who dares skate through the middle with his head down.