Red Deer Rebels blueliner Mathew Dumba remembers all too well the disappointment of coming up short in his quest for a berth on the Canadian national junior team one year ago.
But that was then, this is now, and the dynamic defenceman is a year older and fully aware of what it will take to make the grade during the selection camp next week at Calgary.
“I took a lot out of last year’s experience,” Dumba said on Monday, a few hours after being one of 37 players — including 12 defencemen — invited by Hockey Canada to the national team selection camp running Tuesday to Thursday at Canada Olympic Park.
“I was a younger guy and went in there last year kind of carefree and without a lot of pressure. I want to take that into this year’s camp as well. I really played my best game just because I wasn’t thinking too much. It was good for me to just simplify my game that way.”
As a 17-year-old, Dumba was in tough at the 2011 camp. The Minnesota Wild’s first-round pick — seventh overall — in June’s NHL entry draft will have a much better shot this year.
The Calgary native, who last year was captain of the Canadian team at the world under-18 championship, watched the more experienced players closely during the 2011 junior national selection camp in an effort to gain any possible advantage.
“I learned a lot from the older guys like Jaden Schwartz, about how they carried themselves and how they prepared for games. That was really beneficial for me,” said Dumba.
The third-year Rebels rearguard will have to be at the top of his game next week if he hopes to suit up with Canada in the world junior championship Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. The Canadian team will feature two returning defencemen in Doug Hamilton and Scott Harrington and the likes of Moose Jaw’s Morgan Rielly and Ryan Murphy of Kitchener (OHL) could have an inside track on two more berths.
Not to worry. Dumba is going in with his eyes wide open.
“It’s Team Canada, it’s not going to be a walk in the park at all,” he said. “The competition will be tough and it will drive me. The battle and the compete level is going to bring out the best in everyone.
“It’s a very exciting time. It’s always a honour to be involved in anything Team Canada and this time I’d like to make it a special one.”
Before heading to Calgary, Dumba will accompany the Rebels on a three-game trip starting on Wednesday at Regina and including stops in Moose Jaw and Brandon on Friday and Saturday. Dumba will miss next Wednesday’s home-ice meeting with the Calgary Hitmen and as many as 11 WHL games if he earns a spot with Team Canada.