You might say that the 13 potential rookies remaining in the Red Deer Rebels camp are signed, sealed but not yet delivered.
Every player remaining on the 32-man roster — which excludes Edmonton Oilers hopeful and NHL entry draft prize Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but includes the six skaters set to attend NHL camps — has signed a standard Western Hockey League education contract.
The contract does not guarantee a spot on the team, but does ensure the player a half year of education money if he is on the roster on Oct. 10 and a full year if he’s with the club on Jan. 10. For every year played in the WHL, the player receives a year’s worth of books and tuition at a post-secondary institution of his choice, and the standard contract also covers the player for four years of education money in the event of a career-ending injury during a preseason or regular-season game.
“The contract still doesn’t guarantee them anything and you have to make sure that they all understand what they’re giving up by playing even one WHL preseason game . . . that they lose that NCAA eligibility (the opportunity to achieve a U.S. college scholarship),” Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin said Thursday.
“Everyone is different. For some that’s an issue, for others it’s not.”
Chase McMurphy, a promising 17-year-old forward, wanted assurance they he would gain regular employment with the Rebels this season, and when it wasn’t forthcoming he left camp following the Black and White intrasquad game to return to the Calgary Mustangs of the AJHL.
“We weren’t willing to promise him a spot on the team. He wanted that guarantee and wasn’t willing to commit here otherwise. He wanted to leave that (NCAA) option open,” said Wallin.
“But there are other guys who want to go that next step in the process and they understand that there is no guarantee they’re going to be on our team. They go into that (WHL preseason play) with their eyes wide open.”
Joining McMurphy on the list of forward prospects who turned their backs on the Rebels this year are Jackson Playfair, 17, and 16-year-old Spencer Kryczka. But McMurphy at least attended training camp while the other two stayed away.
“It’s kind of a frustrating thing. Some kids want to leave their options open, and that’s fair. But there’s no harm in coming to training camp and we have two kids in that cagegory,” said Wallin.
“Both of them have told us, whether they’re being honest or not, that they still have interest in playing here but they want to leave their doors open. I don’t know if they’re receiving bad advice or they’re just misinformed. There are no repercussions and no loss of (NCAA) eligibility for coming to (a WHL) training camp and seeing where you’re at. It’s unfortunate, we would have loved to have them in camp to get a look at them but that’s the decision they made.”
• The Rebels, who were 2-0 in a preseason tournament at St. Albert during the long weekend, take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes in an exhibition game tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Innisfail Arena, then travel to Calgary to face the Hitmen on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Flames Community Arenas.
Reigning WHL rookie of the year and soon-to-be all-star defenceman Mathew Dumba will suit up for one of the games, while 16-year-old forward Dexter Bricker will miss both after being suspended three games for being assessed a charging major and game misconduct in Monday’s 5-4 overtime win over Swift Current.
Meanwhile, Rebels prospect Dallas Bergstrom, a 16-year-old defenceman who was reassigned following last week’s Black and White game, has joined the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL.
Rebels current roster (x-denotes returnee):
Goal — Patrik Bartosak; Bolton Pouliot; x-Dawson Guhle.
Defence — x-Matt Pufahl; Kevin Pochuk; x-Brad Deagle; x-Alex Petrovic; x-Aaron Borejko; x-Justin Weller; Cody Thiel; x-Lucas Grayson; Kayle Doetzel; Stephen Hak; x-Mathew Dumba.
Forward — Brooks Maxwell; Cory Millette; x-Byron Froese; x-Colten Mayor; Dexter Bricker; x-Josh Cowen; x-John Persson; Mason Burr; x-Tyson Ness; x-Adam Kambeitz; x-Locke Muller; x-Turner Elson; Joel Hamilton; x-Daulton Siwak; Trace Elson; x-Chad Robinson; Scott Feser; Marc McCoy.