Consistency hasn’t been a strong point of Grayson Pawlenchuk’s game this season.
“For the most part I’ve been happy with my season. Some parts have been kind of down where I haven’t played the greatest, and some parts have been up. I’ve kind of been inconsistent,” the second-year Rebels forward said Thursday, following a practice session at the Kinex.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t arguing with that assessment.
“I think he’s been better the last two to three weeks. It’s an important ending to his season and he has to make a push,” said Sutter. “I didn’t think he was very good the first half of the season, I just thought he played a very passive game and wasn’t as engaged as he had been in the past, for whatever reason.
“We had different discussions with him about why that was and in the last little while he’s been getting back to where we need him to be as a player. He took a step back and we’ve got him back to the starting point and now he has to continue to grow.”
As a 16-year-old rookie, Pawlenchuk, who missed several weeks with a broken elbow, potted seven goals and recorded 19 points in 44 Western Hockey League contests while playing a solid two-way game, and was attracting attention from NHL scouts. In 60 games this season, he has garnered nine goals and 24 points and hasn’t performed at the level the Rebels coaching staff and the pro scouts were anticipating.
“In terms of points, I should be expected to produce a lot more,” said the Ardrossan product, who will celebrate his 18th birthday next month. “Otherwise I’ve done a good job defensively and created some offence, I’m just not getting the points.
“But I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and I’m focusing on my defensive play. I take a lot of pride in my work on the penalty kill. Hopefully the points will come with hard work and going hard to the net, but I’m not too worried about it.”
Still, Pawlenchuk would prefer to be contributing more offensively for a Rebels team that has struggled to score over the last month and will likely be without captain and top sniper Conner Bleackley for another two to three weeks with a lower body injury.
“With Bleacks out we’ve kind of had trouble scoring, so I want to step up and be a big part of producing and I’m working on that,” he said.
Based on how Pawlenchuk performed as a raw rookie, Sutter was certainly expecting more from the winger right out of the gate. Instead . . .
“His start to the season was OK, and then it just seemed that he lost that push that he needed, that aggression and getting engaged in games like he needs to do. He struggled with that,” said Sutter.
“There’s a reason why he went from being someone who was very talked about and sought after to a guy scouts were calling us about, wondering what had happened to him and why he had gone the other way. But he’s getting it back, and that’s the main thing. In the last few weeks his game has gotten better, his work ethic has picked up. He’s been creating more and getting more scoring opportunities, he’s been more engaged in the game and his play without the puck has been much better.
“He’s one of those players who has to be engaged for his mind to work right on the ice so he’s thinking the game the right way. Some guys can do it naturally, but the majority of players have to be involved and have their feet moving to have their head working the right way, and he’s one of them.”
Pawlenchuk is eligible for the 2015 NHL entry draft and was listed at No. 93 in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings of North American prospects.
“(Associate coach Jeff Truitt) tells me not to focus on that, to just focus on my game and it will happen,” said Pawlenchuk. “It’s in the back of my mind but I just try and focus on my game and not worry too much about it.”
The Rebels host the Prince Albert Raiders tonight and welcome the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Centrium Saturday.