Underwood fills important role for Rebels
For Brandon Underwood, the pain of leaving the Regina Pats was tempered by the realization that he was headed to another respected franchise.
“At first I was a little shocked. Getting traded is always a little tough, but when I heard it was Red Deer I was really excited,” the 20-year-old defenceman said on Thursday, roughly 48 hours after being dealt by the Pats to the Rebels.
“I’m excited about spending my last year in the league in a good spot like this.”
Underwood, who cost the Rebels a fourth-round pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, played three seasons in Kamloops before being dealt to Regina for the 2011-12 season.
“Playing with Regina last year, I saw a bit of Red Deer so I kind of knew what it was about. And when I was in Kamloops we came here a few times,” he said.
“I was really excited when I heard I was coming here. I know it’s a good city with good fans and the facilities here are the nicest I’ve seen. I’m really happy to be here.”
Rebels general manager Brent Sutter acquired Underwood to help stabilize a relatively young and inexperienced defensive corps. The product of San Marcos, Calif., is eager to deliver.
“First off, I think I bring leadership,” said Underwood. “I think that’s the main thing — being a good guy in the room, a good mentor for the guys and a reliable guy on defence who can play physical, can play tough and lead on and off the ice.”
Underwood, who last winter scored three goals and garnered 13 points in 54 regular-season games with Regina, should be a nice complement to a promising — albeit green – group of Red Deer defencemen.
“It looks like there’s some good young guys here. Obviously, you have Matt Dumba who’s a pretty dynamic player,” said Underwood. “I think I can add to that. I know what kind of player I am, just a solid, reliable guy who likes to mix it up a bit here and there. I’m really excited to work with the guys and get started tomorrow (tonight, versus the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers).”
Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin has watched Underwood in action since the blueliner entered the league in 2008 and is confident he can fill an important role with the Rebels.
“He brings that steading influence,” said Wallin. “He’s a veteran guy who brings a lot of size, he’s a huge player. He’s a tough guy to play against but he’s really going to provide that steadying influence back there with the young guys we have.
“We see him playing with (rookie) Haydn Fleury, he’s going to be a mentor for him and the other young guys back there. He’ll bring a calming influence as a guy who can play some minutes and settle things down once the younger guys start running around and the tempo gets up a bit. He’s a big, strong guy and he’s going to be a presence on our back end.”
Most importantly, Underwood is a proven commodity.
“We’ve got a young defence, some inexperience back there with young guys who are going to be real good players,” said Wallin. “Part of their development is having an older guy around to learn from and that’s really what he (Underwood) is going to bring. He’s a guy who has been through the grind of the league and understands the perspective of a young defenceman, and he can help these guys learn and grow.”
The acquisition of Underwood gives the Rebels four overage players, one over the league limit. Forwards Turner Elson, Adam Kambeitz and Charles Inglis are the other 20-year-olds and one of the four will have to be moved before or on the Oct. 10 deadline.
l Underwood played his minor hockey in the California Wave program as well as with the Los Angeles Junior Kings. Anaheim Ducks prize prospect and former Tigers forward Emerson Etem and Nashville Predators defenceman Jon Blum played in the southern California system, as did current Saskatoon Blades forward Shane McColgan.