The second highest defenseman from the WHL checks in at number five on this list, confirming what everyone knew – this is a scary good year for defensemen.

Vitals

Height: 6’0

Weight: 183

Position: Defence

Born: July 25, 1994

The breakdown

It’s hard, playing a big man’s game with a smaller man’s body. Not necessarily because you physically can’t do it, but because at the NHL level the toll you take for sacrificing your body is so much greater. Yes you are more able to send guys cartwheeling, but the impact of careening into someone who outweighs you by 30 or more pounds leaves a bruise.

Matt Dumba isn’t a big kid at a (generous) 6-foot, 183 pounds, but he is a big talent. Dumba brings many tools to the table. He is a very good skater, he handles the puck well, he has a booming shot from the point and he is a missile prone to locking in on puck carriers and blowing them up once they cross his blue border.

But can a team that drafts Dumba expect the physicality to stick around at the professional level when he’s playing grown men?

“If you look at PK Subban, he’s not a big guy and he’s still able to hit guys,” said Neate Sager, editor of Yahoo!’s Buzzing the Net. “The low centre of gravity doesn’t stop you from playing a physical game.”

While the size impediment won’t necessarily stop him from playing with a physical edge, Dumba will certainly have to make an adjustment from his current playing style.

“He still needs to reign it in sometimes because he can run around in his own zone sometimes and I’m sure some of that is because he was on a bad team this year,” said Sager. “Red Deer missed the playoffs so guys like that can get overextended. Griffin Reinhart didn’t have to play 35 minutes a night in Edmonton whereas Dumba had to in Red Deer.”

Growing up in Calgary has given Dumba the opportunity to see a fair share of talent suit up on the blueline for the Flames. How that talent plays out isn’t always a given, but the role models are there and are visible in Dumba’s game. The most popular comparison he draws is that of Dion Phaneuf, former Flames defender and current Toronto Maple Leafs captain.

“I’ve said this sort of in print, that Dumba is sort of like Phaneuf when Phaneuf is really on his game,”
said Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. “He throws the big hit, he has the big shot, he needs to put on more weight and more strength when he gets to the NHL so he can be that offensive player and he’s still very good at that aspect — manning the power play, keeping the puck in, getting shots through to the net, he’s a very good skater and if he can keep that physical element that’s great, he’ll probably have to tone it down a bit because of his frame but it’s a nice little thing to have.”

Obviously Phaneuf’s reputation has dropped a tad since making the switch from Calgary to Toronto and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Rebels blueliner.

“It’s funny because I was talking to Mike Traikos of the National Post, who’s a friend of mine, at the combine,” said Kennedy. “He was talking to Dumba and he had always said that Phaneuf was a role model for him, but at the combine Dumba was like ‘Well it’s Drew Doughty now’ because Phaneuf’s stock has fallen a bit.”

Now, obviously no player comparison is perfect. Each player is different in their own way — yes, this is a very kindergarten level concept — and it follows that they all play out in their own way. But Dumba could do worse than either of his idols in Phaneuf, who was dominant in Calgary and was nominated for a Norris Trophy in 2009, and Doughty who has already been nominated for a Norris and won a Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold before he turns 23.

We know Ryan Murray is the highly touted finished product in this draft, but if you’re looking for that ceiling, Matt Dumba may be your man.

From the horse’s mouth

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