Like father, like son.
Jack McClelland may never perform in the NHL like his father, Kevin, but he prefers to play the same style as the former Edmonton Oilers tough guy and four-time Stanley Cup champion.
“I like to play a physical game, bring some toughness,” the younger McClelland said Sunday, following the first main camp scrimmage of the Red Deer Rebels training camp at the Centrium. “I like to fight a bit and play a gritty, fourth-line style.”
McClelland was invited to the Rebels camp for a reason — GM/head coach Brent Sutter is hopeful that the six-foot-three, 203-pound winger can supply some bottom-six sandpaper to his up-front units during the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season.
The 19-year-old has at least an inkling of what the major junior game is about, having suited up with the Vancouver Giants for six games early last season.
“I feel that I’m a little ahead this season, the (WHL) experience from last year kind of helped with knowing the speed coming into this camp,” he said. “Going into Vancouver, I didn’t know too much about how quick the game speed was. Coming into this camp, I was more aware of it.”
McClelland, who returned to his hometown of Wichita, Kan., after being released by the Giants in November, rejoined the junior A Thunder of the Western States Hockey League and put up 43 points (13g,30a) while racking up 67 penalty minutes in 31 games.
The rugged forward has lived in Wichita since 2010, when his dad was hired as coach of the ECHL Thunder. The elder McClelland has never coached his son, nor has he passed on much of his hockey knowledge, expect for tips on how to survive as a role player.
“He’s not really a dad who likes to coach (his son), I don’t learn too much from him,” said McClelland. “The only aspect he teaches me is how to fight, how to go in . . . other than that, not too much. But I like to feel that I’m the same type of player he was.”
With the Rebels slated to host the Memorial Cup tournament next May, McClelland knows that he’s been offered the absolute best opportunity of his junior career. And he knows exactly what is expected of him.
His age shouldn’t work against him which would be the case in most years, as the Rebels will ice an older team this season. He knows he can’t pretend to be the type of player he isn’t through the remainder of training camp and the exhibition season, if in fact he gets that far.
“I’m going to have to know my role if I’m going to make the team,” said McClelland. “They want a fourth-line guy, a guy who’s not going to play too many minutes and can bring toughness. I feel that’s what I can bring.
“I know my role so I’m not going to be expecting too much more than that. I know what I’m getting here.”
Sutter likes McClelland’s bloodlines, his skating ability and his willingness to fill a specific post.
“His dad played pro hockey, so he comes from a hockey mindset,” said the Rebels boss. “Just in the short time he’s been here, I can see that he skates well and that he’s a big kid.
“We’re always looking for guys who can skate and if they have size as well, that’s great. Now we just have to see how he handles the pace when we get him into games. There has to be an element of physicality with him to play on our team because a player like that is not going to play in your top six forwards, but he can certainly be a good role player for us.”
Training camp resumes this morning and concludes with Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Black and White intrasquad game. The Rebels open preseason play Friday at St. Albert against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
• Wyatt Johnson, who will attend the Anaheim Ducks rookie camp in September — one of eight Rebels going to NHL camps — scored twice Sunday as Team Black downed Team White 3-1. Michael Spacek also tallied for the winners. Ivan Nikoloshin notched the lone goal for Team White.