Red Deer Rebel prospect Austin Pratt skates Friday during the Rebels prospect Camp at the Penhold Arena.

Red Deer Rebel prospect Austin Pratt skates Friday during the Rebels prospect Camp at the Penhold Arena.

Pratt ready to make impact

At six-foot-three, 218 pounds Austin Pratt is not an ordinary 15-year-old.

At six-foot-three, 218 pounds Austin Pratt is not an ordinary 15-year-old.

The man child looks like he could step on the ice tomorrow and fit in on any scoring line in the WHL.

At least that’s what Red Deer Rebels owner, general manager and head coach Brent Sutter is hoping. He will be given every opportunity to make an impact as a 16-year-old this fall.

This weekend the Rebels are getting an up close and personal look at the Lakeville, Minn., native with their annual spring prospects camp at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.

“He’s a big, young man,” said Sutter. “He can handle it physically and he’s a real smart and intelligent player and that’s going to help him this year as a 16-year-old in our league.”

Pratt already is the biggest player on their active roster, but his preparedness for the WHL goes beyond his physical attributes. Sutter has been impressed with his off-ice demeanor and his maturity.

“He’s a very respectful kid. As a young man he speaks very well and he’s smart,” said Sutter. “He’s mature for his age.”

That’s more than just coach speak.

As a ‘veteran’ of the prospects he’s already taking it upon himself to help first year players feel their way through the process of the camp.

“I’m normally one who tries to get the team focused and ready for a game, so it’s a good transition to here,” said Pratt.

He has spent the past two years being groomed in one of North America’s preeminent hockey factories at Shattuck St. Mary’s, which also produced NHL stars like Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews.

Last year with the school’s U-16 team he scored 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 55 games, one season after scoring 73 points (30-43-73) in 65 games with the bantam team. That season lead to his fourth round selection in the WHL bantam draft.

Despite the slight dip in his numbers, he says 2014-15 was a season of on-ice growth, as he improved his already impressive shot and worked on his skating.

“I’m getting stronger, faster, more confident every day,” said Pratt. “Just like any big kid, my skating is the biggest thing, so I’ve been working the most on that.”

The improved conditioning already shows up on the scales, having dropped from 225 pounds last year to 218, with an improved muscle mass.

While this will be the furthest away from home he has ever lived — at 1,200 kilometres it’s a daunting hurdle for any teen — he says the hockey culture will be fairly familiar.

“It will be exciting, obviously I’ll miss my home, but the people here are great, the Rebels organization’s great … I won’t miss home too much,” said Pratt. “Everyone lives, breathes, eats hockey and that’s what I love.”

Although he grew up with the Minnesota Wild in his backyard, he grew up on Canadian hockey as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, with his father David Pratt a native of the Big Smoke.

However, that did not factor in his decision to come back to Canada.

“My dad has watched a bunch of major junior hockey, he knew what I was going to get with the WHL and NCAA and he just supported me with whatever choice I made,” said Pratt, adding his dad was actually more of a football player than hockey player.

With this background, Pratt plays a style of game that makes any Canadian hockey fan giddy, using his size for more than just eating up space. His hockey heroes and those he patterned his game after come with the names Milan Lucic and Brandon Saad.

“He’s strong, he’s a big power forward and that’s how he’s going to have to play,” said Sutter. “He’s got to be a guy that plays that power game. Obviously just being 16, he’s going to get better and better and better as he goes a long and as he grows and gets stronger … He’s going to be a horse in this league at some point.”

The biggest question about Pratt was answered in April when he signed on with the Rebels.

It is often difficult for WHL teams to predict whether American draft picks will actually come north to play. Fellow Shattuck St. Mary’s teammate Grant Mismash was taken one round after Pratt by the Rebels in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, 97th overall, but instead has committed to the University of North Dakota.

It is for this reason, these players often slide in the draft and require teams to nurture a solid relationship with these players and their family.

“After seeing everything and coming here, I thought this would be the better route,” said Pratt, who also was considering college hockey. “Brent’s a great coach, he told me all the stuff he thinks I can do, so I’m trying my best to live up to that expectation.”

In the case of Pratt, the extra work has paid off to this point for the Rebels, and he could prove to be the steal of his draft class.

“We tell all of our young kids this, there’s a process to development, both as players and as individuals, as people. That’s part of maturing,” said Sutter. “(Pratt’s) no different than anyone else in that way, in fact he’s a little bit ahead in certain areas because of his strength and because of the type of player he is. He wouldn’t have slipped to where he did if he was playing in Canada, he would have been a first round draft pick.”

The prospect camp continues today at 3:45-5:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 9-11 a.m. at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

With a ban on sit-in dining set to begin at noon Friday, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up and outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions, and is selling his own branded seasonings, salsa, guacamole, tequila bags, margerita kits, and even aprons like the one he is wearing.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

Artist Delree Dumont has painted an Indigenous mural at St. Joseph High School. (Contributed photo)
Indigenous mural painted on Red Deer high school walls

A new Indigenous mural now sits on the walls of St. Joseph… Continue reading

Jessica Swainson learned about improvisation and filmmaking at The Hub on Ross before its closure. She’s pictured here with her former Hub instructor Jason Steele. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer city, arts council are working to close ‘gaps’ left by The Hub’s closure

Could some popular Hub programs be resurrected at Northside Community Centre?

Red Deer College (Contributed photo)
Updated: RDC students to be hit with steep fee and tuition increases

Many students will see more than $1,000 in extra education costs in 2021-22

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Experts warn of economic implications from Rogers wireless outage

A massive wireless outage that has left customers of Rogers Communications Inc.… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal Budget 2021: Liberals bank on child care, business aid to prod growth

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are betting that billions more in debt… Continue reading

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

VICTORIA — The University of Victoria says the head coach of its… Continue reading

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley announces proposed new legislation to protect Alberta’s mountains and watershed from coal mining at a news conference in Calgary on Monday, March 15, 2021. A group of 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging the provincial government to rethink its plans for expanding coal-mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta scientists urge adoption of bill that would protect against coal mining

EDMONTON — Some 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging… Continue reading

A driver shows identification to an Ottawa police officer as a checkpoint as vehicles enter the province from Quebec Monday April 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Quebec and Ontario impose travel restrictions to slow surging virus variants

Ontario and Quebec imposed new interprovincial travel restrictions on Monday amid growing… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
LaGrange: Feedback needed to refine curriculum

As the Minister of Education my role has been guided by a… Continue reading

In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

TOKYO — The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with… Continue reading

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, greets Bayern's Lucas Hernandez at the end of the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PSG, Bayern the big names missing from Super League plan

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The plan for the new Super League soccer competition… Continue reading

Most Read