During the 2012-13 campaign, WHL Red Deer featured a pair of talented young blueliners in Mathew Dumba and Haydn Fleury.
Today, both sit as former first-round picks — Dumba seventh overall in ’12 (by Minnesota), Fleury seventh overall in ’14 (by Carolina) — and both are looking to be full-time NHLers when training camps break this autumn.
But their expectations are tempered by the reality of their situations.
“I want to be [with Minnesota] next season and I’ll do whatever it takes to be there,” Dumba said, per NHL.com. “But at the same time, looking at it with perspective, there’s a plan for me. Everything happens for a reason.”
“When you get drafted so high and you see top 10 picks make it the next year, that’s kind of one of your goals in the summer,” Fleury explained, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think at the same time I need to keep a level mind and realize not many 18-year-olds play in the NHL and it’s a big step, especially on defense.”
Of the two, Dumba, who turns 20 tomorrow, has the edge in experience. He’s been up with the Wild on a couple of occasions and made his NHL debut last season, appearing in 13 games. With the Wild only have seven d-men on NHL contracts at the moment — and two of them being Jon Blum and Christian Folin — it seems as though Dumba’s ready for a shot to stick in the bigs.
Fleury’s situation is a little more complex.
Though he boasts NHL size — 6-foot-3, 207 pounds — he only just turned 18 three weeks ago and is relatively green in terms of playing experience. What’s more, Carolina has six relatively experienced veterans on its blueline in Ron Hainsey, Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles, Andrej Sekera, Jay Harrison and the recently re-signed Tim Gleason. 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy will also presumably be up for the entire year, so it’s a crowded situation for Fleury to fight through.
According to new head coach Bill Peters, the ‘Canes won’t rush Fleury into the NHL.
“It’s going to be harder for a D-man than it is for a forward,” Peters explained. “We’re not going to be in a hurry. We’ll go step by step.”