Rebels Ethan Sakowich adjusts to playing up front

The last time Ethan Sakowich played forward before this season was in novice hockey.

Now the Red Deer Rebels defenceman has found himself channeling those young hockey memories.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “This is the first year I’ve played forward. It’s different, I’m enjoying it though. I get to showcase my offensive side a little more.”

The winger/defenceman has just two goals this season.

“Not much there but I can show it a little more. You have to prepare a little bit differently. Coming into games, you have to know what you’re expected to do.”

His first goal this year, on Nov. 4 in Spokane, was also his first WHL point. He takes no credit.

“It was crazy, didn’t expect it to happen that early in the year,” he said. “It was my first point as well. Was in the right place, (Michael) Spacek did all the work, gave me the puck and I was just lucky enough to put it in the net.”

In his first full WHL season, the 17-year-old has played in 38 games with the Rebels so far and associate coach Jeff Truitt said he’s handling the back and forth between the two positions well.

“It’s a learning experience,” Truitt said.

“As a defenceman you get an appreciation for how hard those guys have to work. To keep him on his toes as well, last game we had him on the back end for quite a while. We know what kind of defenceman we have in him, he’s a studious, defensive defenceman. Somebody who is going to move pucks and just be a good defender. We know what we’ve got, he’s got a good upside to him.”

Sakowich said the toughest part about jumping into the forward mix has been finding his place positionally.

“Just where I have to be on the ice on the forecheck. I’m used to staying back, now I have to jump up in the play a little more it’s definitely hard to get used to,” Sakowich said.

Since the brief taste of forward in his early days of hockey, Sakowich has always been a defenceman. Growing up in Athabasca, when hockey got more serious, his family was forced to make the hour and a half drive so he could play with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers program.

“It was great, played in Fort Sask for four years, travelled their three years the hour and a half. Lucky enough my parents were willing to drive me like that,” he said.

“My last year it was just too much. So I ended up billeting with a teammate. It was a great experience, made it a lot easier for my family and myself.”

In his second midget season, where his family also made the tough decision to billet Sakowich with a teammate, he broke out and had 32 points in 30 games in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. Two summers before that, he was selected in the third round of the WHL Bantam Draft by the Rebels.

“I have a different role here than I did, on that team we struggled scoring so I was expected to have some of that workload on myself,” he said.

“I played power play, had good teammates. Kirby Dach who was drafted second overal … helped a lot. I just had good teammates.”

Until Sakowich returns to his familiar post on the blueline, the newly minted winger is just happy to help the team win anyway he can.

“Right now, I know what’s expected of me. I know for me to be successful, I need to be responsible defensively. (Offence) is something I hope for, but it’s not my main concern,” he said.

The Rebels are back on the ice Friday at the Centrium when they take on the Prince George Cougars.

byron.hackett@bprda.wpengine.com

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