Rebels acquisitions have worked out well
Completing a WHL trade is a hit-or-miss proposition at the best of times, the major hope being that any transaction will aid both teams involved.
The Red Deer Rebels, at least so far, are two-for-two in the trade department this season.
Forward Matt Bellerive, acquired from the Vancouver Giants in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft, is currently tied for the Rebels scoring lead, while 20-year-old Brandon Underwood, who came over from the Regina Pats for a fourth-rounder next year, has been a steadying influence on the back end.
These are two deals that Rebels GM Brent Sutter would make all day long.
Bellerive, who doesn’t turn 18 until Dec. 7, is tied with overage forward Charles Inglis for the Rebels scoring lead with one goal and five assists in just four outings, and is also a plus-1. The five-foot-11, 188-pound North Vancouver product came over from the Vancouver Giants after being a healthy scratch during the opening weekend and requesting a trade.
Bellerive played a key role in the Rebels’ 5-3 road win over the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday, collecting three assists. So far, so good.
“For sure, he’s been a big addition to our team,” Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said from Regina Thursday evening. “He’s a talented guy. He’s got good hands and some good offensive instincts. He reads the play pretty well and he’s able to find his teammates. He’s got quick hands and a quick release. He’s fit in real well so far and I think he’s really trying to take advantage of a fresh start and a new opportunity.”
As for the six-foot-three, 220-pound Underwood . . .
“He’s really helped us out,” said Wallin. “The biggest thing was we wanted a veteran presence on defence, someone who could play with (rookie) Haydn Fleury and Brandon has been a really good mentor for him. He’s going to be really relied upon to be a calming influence and he’s done a good job of that.
“He’s a big guy who’s a presence back there and keeps opposing players on their toes. He’s a guy who takes charge on the ice. He settles things down in our zone and he’s been good on the power play as well.”
For the record, Underwood has scored once and added an assist with the Rebels. He’s also a plus-3 performer.
l Management is the lifeblood of any WHL franchise, particularly if that management has a keen eye for talent.
In a move that could be inserted into the ‘no-brainer’ category, the Edmonton Oil Kings this week extended the contract of general manager Bob Green, the man who turned the club into a championship side in five short seasons.
“It’s exciting for me,” the 2011-12 WHL Executive of the Year told the Edmonton Sun. “I really appreciate the opportunity and I feel very fortunate to be working for this organization.
“It’s basically my home town, all my family live here, I didn’t have to move to take the job. Because the team is owned by the Oilers makes it special, playing in this building makes it special. I look at it as being one of the top three jobs in this league and I feel pretty lucky to have it.”
Green, who got a new three-year deal with an option for a fourth, knows all about identifying talent. He was the Medicine Hat Tigers head scout before being hired by the Oilers prior to their inaugural season of 2007-08.
He also knows all about hiring the proper people to handle the role he held with the Tigers. Randy Hansch, the club’s assistant GM and director of player personnel, has done a fine job in that department.
“The difference between 14 and 18 is pretty huge, anyone who has kids that age understands that part of it,” said Green, crediting Hansch with playing a major role in the team’s success at the bantam draft table and emergence as a WHL force. “We drafted high for a number of years, but we made the most of those picks and took the right guys. It’s all kind of come together.”
Green suggested that five years is not a short time to build a contender. That was his timetable all along, he insisted.
“The way I looked at it, anything less than what we accomplished last year, and hopefully this year, would have been failure because it had been done before,” said Green. “You have to have high expectations for yourselves and for the organization.”
l The Regina Pats welcomed overage defenceman Colton Jobke back into the fold on Thursday. Jobke was attending the camp of the AHL Houston Aeros . . . The Vancouver Giants cut ties with 19-year-old Czech forward Ales Kilnar this week. Kilnar, taken 44th overall in this year’s CHL import draft, was sent home after just two games in which he was held pointless and was a minus-1.