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Dumba earns spot in Minnesota Wild lineup

Mathew Dumba’s good fortune may be a kick in the teeth to the Red Deer Rebels.

Dumba, the seventh overall selection in last year’s NHL entry draft, left for Minneapolis-St. Paul last weekend to attend the training camp of the Minnesota Wild with the understanding that he would return to the Rebels Thursday.

But — regarding the Rebels — a not-so-funny thing happened while Dumba was skating and scrimmaging with the pros. He stood out, to the extent that he will open the regular season with the Wild Saturday versus the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

Steve Kampfer, a pro since 2009 with 61 games of NHL experience, was reassigned Thursday to make room for Dumba, one of seven defencemen on Minnesota’s season-opening roster.

Dumba can play up to five games with the Wild before the team has to absorb the first year of his three-year entry level contract. With the club already at the league’s 50-contract limit and Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin working their way back from injuries, it’s quite likely that Dumba will return to the Rebels in the near future.

But for now, at least, he’s an NHL player, although the club hasn’t confirmed whether he will be in the lineup Saturday.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Dumba told Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “These last five days have gone by so quick for me. It’s an awesome feeling to be here right now.”

“He’s earned it,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

“He’s been really good up to this point. There’s no guarantees for anything except the next couple days. We definitely want to have a chance to, No. 1, reward him, and No. 2, watch him play a little bit more.”

As Yeo noted, Dumba has clearly made the most of his opportunity.

“The plan going into it was to come up for a week or what not, have the experience, and go back to my junior team,” Dumba told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “(But) I think I can handle it.”

H H H H

While the major focus regarding player transactions was on the Jan. 10 trade deadline, a deal between the Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes three days prior to the deadline may prove to be the most consequential.

Broncos GM/head coach Mark Lamb raised more than a few eyebrows around the league when he pried talented 17-year-old forward Jay Merkley from the ‘Canes in return for rugged winger Josh Derko, currently recovering from a broken ankle, and a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.

“It was no secret that I was looking for the type of player that we got,” Lamb told Brad Brown of the Prairie Post. “I’d inquired about him a couple months earlier and . . . it’s a significant, big deal for this organization.”

Merkley, the third-overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft, scored 14 goals and added eight assists with the Hurricanes this season and has sniped two goals and collected three points in four games with the Broncos.

The Calgary native waived a no-trade clause with the ‘Canes to make the trade happen.

“In simple terms, there was just no room for me to move up in Lethbridge,” said Merkley. “I felt like this would be a better opportunity for myself.

“I was playing a third-line role and that’s not really the type of player I am. I’m not a big checker or trying to prevent goals. I like to be more on the offensive side of things.”

Lamb revealed that he also inquired at the deadline about disgruntled 17-year-old forward Alex Forsberg, who decided not to return to the Prince George Cougars following the Christmas break. The asking price, it turned out, was too high.

“We got the ’95 player that we wanted,” said Lamb, in reference to Merkley. “My pricetag of where I thought we could go was not even close to where Prince George had Forsberg at. (Prince George GM Dallas Thompson) just said if he didn’t get what the price was he wasn’t going to trade him, and he didn’t trade him.”

Just notes: The Kamloops Blazers continued their puzzling slide Wednesday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Victoria Royals, who had defeated the visitors 6-4 the night before. The once red-hot Blazers, a mere 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 outings, fell short Wednesday despite the fact the Royals were minus six regular forwards who have combined for 126 points this season. Victoria nailed down the victory when defenceman Tyler Stahl scored on a slapshot. “I’m not a finesse guy, so I thought I would put my strength into the shot, Stahl, who thought head coach Dave Lowry was joking when he called his number during the shootout, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist . . . Meanwhile, the upstart Kootenay Ice posted their ninth win against one loss since Dec. 29 with a 3-2 overtime triumph over the host Prince Albert Raiders. Sam Reinhart was the hero, scoring his second goal of the game with 26 seconds remaining in the extra session. After starting the season with just 10 wins in 35 games, the Ice have moved up to 10th place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Regina Pats and just four back of the eighth-place Medicine Hat Tigers.

 
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