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Rebels pare down roster by two

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Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter reduced his Western Hockey League club’s roster to 31 players Thursday by reassigning 16-year-old forwards Tyler Kirkup and Josh Logel, both of whom will rejoin their midget AAA teams.

Kirkup will suit up with the Southwest Cougars, based in Souris, Man., while Logel will be back with the Calgary Northstars.

“For these kids, whether they’re close or how they fit in, it’s about the long-term development of the player and where they’re going to get the most opportunity to play,” said Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter.

“Both of these kids played midget triple A last year. That was quite an accomplishment for them to play at that level and this year we expect them to be dominant players at that level. They’ll also have the opportunity to really grow not only on the ice, but off the ice, and that’s because they’ll have that kind of responsibility — to be the best players on the ice every game.”

Kirkup, five-foot-11 and 164 pounds, produced 15 goals and 27 points in 43 regular-season game with the Cougars in 2013-14 and two goals in three playoff outings, while the six-foot-one, 198-pound Logel was one of three 15-year-olds with the Northstars last season. His statistics were not available.

Brent Sutter, with the help of NHLers Brandon Sutter, Kris Russell, Matt Fraser, Paul Postma and Colin Fraser, has put his players — rookies and veterans — through the paces this week in preparation for Saturday and Sunday preseason games versus the Prince George Cougars and Swift Current Broncos at St. Albert. However, a large group of returning skaters will not play in either game.

“We’ve been going through a lot of things this week, including showing the kids video to emphasize how we want to play within our system both on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck,” said the Rebels boss.

“Having the pros out on the ice with us really helps too, because it has the kids playing at their pace.

“It’s been good for a lot of the guys and hopefully it’s been good for the pros, too. They’ve been great at helping us with drills.”

Sutter confirmed that at least six veterans — Haydn Fleury, Brooks Maxwell, Brett Cote, Conner Bleackley, Presten Kopeck and Kayle Doetzel — will not play this weekend. Three others — Devan Fafard, Kolton Dixon and/or Wyatt Johnson — may or may not see action.

Dawson Weatherill will start between the pipes Saturday and Taz Burman and Rylan Toth will split the goaltending duties Sunday.

Just notes: Fleury returned Wednesday from the NHL Showcase event in Toronto. “He’s a top-end guy and it’s nice to have him back practising with us,” said Sutter. “He makes everyone better by practising harder. He’s one of our leaders and it’s good to have him back in the mix.” . . . Fleury and Bleackley, selected by Carolina and Colorado in the first round of this year’s NHL entry draft, will leave for their respective NHL team camps the second week of September. Also slated to attend NHL camps are Johnson (Anaheim), Doetzel (Toronto) and Evan Polei (St. Louis) . . . Sutter will reduce the roster by at least two more players — reassigning 15-year-olds Weatherill and forward Jake Leschyshyn to the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs and Saskatoon Blazers — following this weekend. He’ll also make decisions on 16-year-old forwards Reese Johnson and Zachary Gladu prior to the Rebels heading to Kennewick, Wash., for a pair of preseason games Sept. 5-6.

 
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