The Matt Dumba era is officially over in Red Deer.
It might have been over anyway, but Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter assured once and for all on Tuesday that Red Deer fans have seen the last of Dumba. Sutter dealt the Western Hockey League rights of the current National Hockey League defenceman to the Portland Winterhawks for 18-year-old forward Presten Kopeck.
The deal also includes “significant” conditional bantam draft picks, with the ’Hawks getting a 2014 pick from Red Deer if Dumba, 19, stays with the Minnesota Wild the rest of the season, and the Rebels receiving a pick in each of the next three years if Dumba plays with Portland.
“This was a tough trade to make from our standpoint and from Portland’s standpoint. There are risks on both sides,” said Sutter.
The Rebels boss made the best deal he could, though, considering Dumba was likely never coming back to Red Deer, club that does not resemble a championship contender that will play well into the spring. With the defending champion Winterhawks being a clear contender, the Wild might be willing to send their first-round pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, who’s been used sparingly this season, to Portland.
“I put a Dec. 1 deadline on Matt being returned to us. After that, I had to look at some other options,” said Sutter, who will have Dumba on his Canadian team roster for the world junior championship starting on Dec. 26 in Sweden.
“If he was coming back to Red Deer, and that’s a big if, he wouldn’t be here until Jan. 10 and at that point we would have just two months of our (regular) season left. That being said, this is still a tough trade to make because Matt was definitely a big part of our team for three years. I talked to Matt briefly today and I explained to him that this was a business deal, something we had to do for our organization, for our team and our fans.”
In Kopeck, the Rebels are getting a talented ‘gamer’ with leadership skills. The Medicine Hat native was Portland’s third-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft and has put up 29 points (14g,15a) in 88 regular-season games with the ’Hawks since the start of the 2012-13 season.
Kopeck underwent hernia surgery last week and won’t return to action until early to mid January. Sutter is anxious to get the six-foot, 170-pound left winger/centre into his lineup after getting glowing reports from Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter.
“Shaun has seen him play a lot, he knows their team very well,” said Sutter. “He’s been watching them the last three weeks to a month. Randy (Rebels director of scouting/player development Peterson) has also seen him and I’ve had other guys watching him, too.
“They’ve all said the same thing — that he’s a skilled guy with grit. He’s a real strong character, leader-type of player and that’s what we were really wanting to add to our team.”
Kopeck’s offensive numbers probably suffered due to the fact he was playing behind a half dozen highly-skilled Portland forwards. He’ll be in a more prominent role with the Rebels, who don’t have the same kind of depth up front.
“He’s kind of a mix of (Brooks) Maxwell and (Wyatt) Johnson,” said Sutter, comparing Kopeck to a pair of Rebels forwards. “We’re certainly excited bout getting him.”
Sutter hopes that Kopeck’s determination and take-charge attitude will rub off on his new teammates, including some of the older players.
“From talking with Shaun and Randy, the thing that certainly intrigued me about him is that he has such great leadership skills and character,” said the Rebels bench boss. “He comes to play every night and that’s been an issue with our team at times this year.”
Kopeck played with the midget AAA Medicine Hat Tigers as a 15-year-old — scoring 11 goals and collecting 19 points in 34 games — then joined the Lloydminster Bobcats for the 2011-12 AJHL season. He had 11 goals and 30 points in 56 games with Lloydminster.
Dumba, meanwhile, has appeared in 13 games with the Wild in his rookie NHL season. The first year of his three-year entry level contract kicked in when he played his 10th game, but he can still be returned to the junior ranks prior to the NHL trade deadline of March 5.