Thiel feels at home playing forward
To suggest that Cody Thiel felt out of place playing as a forward during Saturday’s 1-0 WHL preseason loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Innisfail would be totally off the mark.
“Actually, I felt back at home,” Thiel said on Tuesday, following a Red Deer Rebels practice at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.
With the Rebels having a glut of defencemen on their preseason roster, the coaching staff decided to move Thiel up to a wing position for the Saturday contest. The 19-year-old native of Bruno, Sask., didn’t mind at all.
“And I wouldn’t be opposed to staying there. I want to help the team any way I can,” he said. “I haven’t heard much about where I’ll play this season. I just go with the flow.”
Skating on a forward line is nothing new for Thiel, who played up front during most of his minor hockey years.
“I played forward almost my whole life, right up to midget,” said the second-year Rebel, who scored twice and collected eight points in his 53-game WHL rookie season. “I think I could be effective as a forward at this level. With my size I could play a physical style and help make room for my linemates.”
Rebels assistant coach Bryce Thoma wasn’t making any predictions as to where the six-foot-three, 180-pound Thiel will play this season. But he likes his competence at both positions.
“We’ve now tried him and Vukie (Mpofu) up front in the preseason,” said Thoma (Mpofu is now listed as a forward on the Rebels roster). “We’re just trying to get the right mix of personnel. It’s always good when you have guys who can play more than one position, especially coming off a year like we had where we did have some injuries and were forced to play guys out of position.”
At the never least, Thiel would give the Rebels a physical presence on the wing.
“You see him out there with our forward group and he’s a lot bigger than everyone else,” said Thoma. “As well, he’s a kid who just started playing defence a couple of years ago, so playing forward is not something that’s foreign to him. He’s a guy who can be pretty versatile for us.”
Thiel, who came out of virtually nowhere to crack the Rebels lineup last fall after playing the 2010-11 season as a rearguard with the midget AAA Battlefords Stars, will gladly skate on the wing this winter if it means keeping his spot on the team.
“There’s a lot of defencemen (currently eight) here this year, so I have to take advantage of my chances to play,” he said. “This is where I want to play this season and if I have to work twice as hard as I did last year to stay on the team, then I have to work twice as hard.”
Thiel will be absent this weekend as the 0-4 Rebels conclude their preseason schedule with games on Friday and Saturday versus the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers at Lacombe and Stettler.
While attending his brother’s wedding in Regina, he’ll track the games on the WHL website and hope for positive results.
“We need a win or two before the regular season starts,” said Thiel.
• Red Deer native Derek Ryckman is headed back to Alberta. Ryckman was dealt from the Tri-City Americans to the Medicine Hat Tiger on Monday. The trade, which cost the Tigers a fifth-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, allowed the Americans to pare their stock of 20-year-olds to four. “It’s hard,” Ryckman told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald. “You know coming in there are only three spots. Being a fifth-year guy in the league, I knew I would have somewhere to play — Tri or somewhere else. I’m a stay-at-home, shutdown type and I’m glad I can fill that role for Medicine Hat.” The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Ryckman came to the Americans in a trade with Lethbridge last October. He played 60 games for Tri-City last season, scoring two goals with eight assists, 80 penalty minutes and a career-best plus-27 rating. He also had two goals and two assists in 15 playoff games . . . The Swift Current Broncos have signed general manager/head coach Mark Lamb to a three-year contract extension. Lamb is the sixth head coach in Broncos franchise history after joining the club in July of 2009.