So it's that time of year again. With the NHL Entry Draft upon us in just over a fortnight, M&G will begin to profile the relevant players that may be available when the Flames take the stage to select their pick of the litter at 14th overall.
Last year, the team was fortunate when Sven Baertschi fell to them at #13, but this year's draft class has been criticized for a lack of similar depth by some pundits. So the Flames find themselves in an interesting spot--do they draft according to need or according to the Best Player Available™ theory? Similarly, what is the Flames' main need? Did they open one up by trading Tim Erixon last June and fill another by selecting Baertschi?
There is certainly a case for the former, which is why I will begin by profiling several of the defencemen available in the first round of this year's draft, starting with Calgary native Matthew Dumba.
With a late July birthday, the Red Deer Rebels defender is one of the younger prospects eligible for this year's draft. He captained Team Canada to a bronze medal in this spring's U-18 World Championships and was ranked in the top ten amongst North American draft eligible players at the midway point of the season.
Since then, however, Dumba has slipped to #11, not a far fall to be sure, but possibly far enough to be within the Flames' reach, depending on how the cards fall.
At six feet tall and 173 lbs., Dumba's ability to throw potentially game-changing hits has been called one of greatest assets, and he has been compared to players like PK Subban and former Flame Dion Phaneuf in that regard. But his smooth-skating and offensive capabilities are what really makes him stand out to NHL scouts and draft junkies, according to NHL Mock Draft:
...This physicality and situational awareness (a killer instinct, if you will) are augmented by his wheels. Dumba possesses some of the best skating chops of any prospect in the draft and impresses both north-south and east-west with outstanding lateral agility.
Simultaneously, Dumba has outstanding attacking instincts. He can distribute effectively from the point – effectively finding lanes and creating opportunities for teammates. He also has a solid point shot, (he registered a 91.8 mph slapper at the CHL Top Prospects skills competition) so he’ll find equal time working as both a powerplay quarterback and triggerman at the next level.
Dumba finished sixth in scoring amongst WHL defencemen this past regular season, with 20 goals and 57 points in 69 games. Of those 57 points, nine goals came on the powerplay, coupled with 11 PP assists and three short handed points.
However, a player like Dumba also comes with some concerns. He has been classified as a typical high-risk, high-reward player, but I think that goes for most defenders slated to be taken in the fist round of any draft. Dumba has been called a "gambler" and there are varying reports on his positioning in his own zone. Concerns have also been raised about his durability, given that he likes to play such a physical style of game.
From Last Word on Sports:
He sometimes takes too many offensive chances or gets himself out of position looking for that big hit and his defensive game can sometimes suffer as a result. He also needs to bulk up as he’s listed at 6’0 173 lbs. He’s got decent enough height, but he certainly needs to add muscle to that frame if he expects to be able to continue to throw those hits at the next level. More size and strength will also help him to contain the bigger forwards he’ll face in the pros.
So is Dumba a good fit, or if the Flames do draft a defenceman, should they be seeking a safer pick, maybe more of a stay-at-home defender or a two-way forward? Most profiles and scouting reports I've read agree that Dumba, projected to be a top-pairing d-man, is unlikely to fall out of the top ten--and may even go in the top five if a team really wants to take a flyer on a defenceman--but with other defenders like Ryan Murray and Griffin Reinhart also projected to go off the board pretty quickly, you never know how things will shake out and what other teams perceive their greatest needs to be. At first glance, the depth of defenders seems to almost outweigh the depth of forwards available in the first round of this year's draft, but that may be different by the time the Flames take the stage.