By Nick Patterson Herald writer
The Portland Winterhawks have reached the WHL finals each of the past three seasons. Last week the Winterhawks announced they’re committed to making it four straight.
Portland made a big splash when it acquired the rights to star defenseman Mathew Dumba from the Red Deer Rebels.
The Winterhawks gained the rights to the 19-year-old Dumba, who has 51 goals, 76 assists and 234 penalty minutes in 199 career WHL games, along with a conditional bantam draft pick. In return, Portland sent 18-year-old forward Presten Kopeck to the Rebels along with three conditional bantam picks.
Dumba is a major impact player, both with his ability to contribute offensively from the blue line, as well as his penchant for delivering big hits. He was selected seventh overall in the 2012 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild.
But here’s the catch: Dumba isn’t currently playing in the WHL. He spent the first half of the season with Minnesota, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be returned to the junior ranks, thus the conditional nature of all the draft picks. If Dumba isn’t sent back, then Portland receives a third-round pick in 2014 for Kopeck. If Dumba is sent back, then the Rebels don’t surrender the third rounder, and Red Deer receives second rounders in both 2014 and 2015, plus a second or third rounder in 2016, depending on when Dumba reports.
Circumstantial evidence suggests there’s a strong possibility Dumba will find his way back to the WHL. Dumba has appeared in just 13 of the Wild’s 35 games, averaging just 12:26 of ice time in those games, and Minnesota released him to play for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Although Dumba has already passed the 10-game threshold, meaning the first season of his there-year entry-level NHL contract has kicked in, Minnesota may feel his development will be better served by playing regularly at a lower level. And with his rights dealt to Portland, Dumba would be joining a top contender expected to play well into the postseason.
“There’s some risk involved in this for us,” Portland general manager Mike Johnston told the Oregonian. “But this is a quality, top-end guy.”
Should Dumba end up in Portland, the Winterhawks will have few top picks in the upcoming bantam drafts. Portland already had its first rounders stripped through 2017 because of sanctions handed down by the league last year for improper player benefits.
But if Dumba delivers a second straight WHL championship, the Winterhawks probably won’t mind.
Around the WHL
Thirteen WHL players were selected for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 15 in Calgary, Alberta. Those NHL draft-eligible players are: forwards Connor Bleackley (Red Deer), Chase De Leo (Portland), Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert), Sam Reinhart (Kootenay), Nikita Scherbak (Saskatoon) and Jake Virtanen (Calgary); defensemen Haydn Fleury (Red Deer), Julius Honka (Swift Current), Aaron Irving (Edmonton), Brycen Martin (Swift Current), Nelson Nogier (Saskatoon) and Ben Thomas (Calgary); and goaltender Ty Edmonds (Prince George). … Kamloops ended its franchise-record 13-game losing streak when it beat Regina 4-3 in a shootout last Wednesday. … Victoria and Calgary swapped 17-year-old forwards, as the Royals acquired Braden Oleksyn while the Hitmen acquired Landon Welykholowa. … Spokane’s Mike Aviani was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 20-year-old forward had three goals and five assists as the Chiefs went 3-0.
Points — Mitch Holmberg (Spokane) 74; goals — Holmberg 37; assists — Nicolas Petan (Portland) 46; penalty minutes — Sam Grist (Kamloops) 105; wins — Tristan Jarry (Edmonton) 22; goals against average — Jarry 2.05; save percentage — Coleman Vollrath (Victoria) .937.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.