The Red Deer Rebels have a rich history of great defenceman.
From the days of Darren Van Impe, to Dion Phaneuf and most recently Haydn Fleury and Josh Mahura – there’s a pedigree that comes with playing on the blueline in Red Deer.
The torch was unceremoniously passed to a new crop of d-men this season and one of those intending to carry on the tradition is 17-year-old Dawson Barteaux. While he’s still very early on in his WHL career (just 48 games in), he’s starting to earn a bit of pedigree.
Barteaux arrived in Red Deer last season at the trade deadline as a key piece of the deal that sent Mahura to the Regina Pats and has steadily been making an impact since. Not only has his own team noticed, NHL scouts have seen the ability too.
The Foxwarren, Man. native was listed on the NHL Central Scouting list as a C-ranked prospect, which usually projects into a mid-to-late round draft pick. Barteaux intends not to focus on that this season.
“Obviously it’s a huge step for me. It’s awesome to see that but I’m just trying not to think about it and hopefully everything works out at the end of the day. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
“Just play my game. Be better defensively and offensively, be one of the go-to- guys this year. Make my way up there. If I get that done I think everything else will work itself out.”
The six-foot-one, 171-pound defenceman has four points in the Rebels first five games this season, all via the assist. Three out of four of those assists have also come on the Rebels red hot power play. Barteaux insists the new-found offence is nice, but not his focus and mostly a result of talented players on either side.
“You just want to get the pucks to the forwards hands a lot. We have such a skilled group. Pawly is on my power play, he’s a world-class player. He’s unbelievable,” Barteaux said.
“Zablocki – those are my two flanks so on the power play, get it to those guys, it’s pretty easy to rack up the points.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt said the young defender has always had a high hockey IQ and is just putting that to good use on the man advantage.
“He’s good with the puck – he’s been getting the majority of his points on the power play when it comes to assists and that’s the reason he’s on it,” Truitt said.
“We’ve got shooters back there, guys who are aware and he’s a young guy, but he’s got a lot of ability when it comes to handling pucks and making plays happen. Just seems to be on the power play he’s getting rewarded with his shots.”
Barteaux was joined on the central scouting list by Rebels top D-man Alex Alexeyev, who is currently out week-to-week with an upper body injury. Alexeyev is a B-ranked prospect and Barteaux might be one of his biggest fans.
“He’s just so calm. He just waits and waits for that perfect play. He’s so calm with the puck and he’s confident,” he said.
“You watch him and you want to implement that into your game, so it helps everybody.”
Truitt said Alexeyev obviously adds a different dynamic to their blueline and nobody can fill his shoes, so instead he will ask each one of the blueliners to step up their individual game, day-by-day.
While that growth will be key in the short-term, Truitt added that the confidence and comfort Barteaux has shown early on has helped him improve quickly, perhaps ahead of schedule.
“He’s more determined in what he’s bringing here. He knows what’s expected of him and he knows he’s going to get that opportunity,” Truitt said.
“I think with that comes a little bit of the confidence that you need. It’s just been a real nice growth of him knowing that he wants to take his game to the next level.”
The Rebels are back on the ice Saturday night at the Centrium when they Brandon Wheat Kings drop into town. Eight of the next 10 games will be at home for Red Deer.
Email sports info and tips to sports reporter Byron Hackett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter