The last time Colton Bobyk played for a Red Deer hockey team, he was lifting a national championship trophy high above his head.
It’s a moment he wants to recreate after the Red Deer Rebels acquired him on Saturday.
The Rebels got Bobyk, 18, and a fourth round pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft from the Spokane Chiefs in a trade for defenceman Nick Charif, a second round pick in 2015 and a sixth round pick in 2016.
“It was huge to win a national championship here (with the Optimist Chiefs) and when I got traded here knowing we’re hosting the Memorial Cup, to win that it would be the best thing,” he said.
Though the six-foot-two, 195-pound Bobyk has been limited to eight games this season due to a knee injury he suffered in training camp, Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter says he has a big upside, but needs to be given time to get his game back after missing the time he has.
This is a trade not just for this year, but he should be a fixture on next year’s team when they host the Memorial Cup.
“If healthy he can certainly help our hockey team, but that’s the risk we take,” said Sutter.
“At the same time, they get a player that can be very useful for them and get some pretty steep picks. You always want trades to work out for both organizations and for the players involved.”
The six-foot-one, 194-pound Charif, an Edmonton native, played parts of two seasons for the Rebels, scoring 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 57 games with a plus-13 rating in his rookie season last year. This year he had eight points (1-7-8) in 11 games and a minus-4 rating and was battling his own injuries.
Bobyk is a native of Rimbey but played his minor hockey in Red Deer, starting in 2010-11 with the bantam AAA Rebels White. In 2012-13 he scored 32 points (8-24-32) in 31 games with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs and helped them to a Telus Cup title, scoring nine points (2-7-9) in seven midget AAA national championship tournament games.
That year he was also named the Alberta Midget Hockey League’s top defenceman.
It was a big jump in development for a player selected in the 10th round, 217 overall by the Chiefs in 2011 — a point where teams are often taking flyers on bantam prospects, hoping they project into a bigger body or their skill level improves dramatically.
He had a solid first campaign with the Chiefs last season, scoring 12 points (5-7-12) in 56 games while posting a minus-4 rating on a team that finished fourth out of five teams in their division. But he also started to establish himself as an offensive defeneman who’s not afraid to be physical and to use his size.
He came into this season hoping to take the next step in his development, and but a crack in the ice in training camp changed those plans.
“It was in practice and I caught a rut and tore my patella,” said Bobyk.
“It feels good now, I’m ready to play.
“It sucked. I wanted to start the year and have a good start, then to have that injury, I tried to come back in during the middle of the season when guys had already played 15-20 games and I had to jump into it.”
The injury should not require surgery to correct it, he said. Instead he has spent most of the season rehabbing and resting it, hoping to get it back to 100 per cent.
Bobyk hasn’t played a game since Nov. 11, but has four points (1-3-4) in eight games with 17 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating.
He was given a clean bill of health before the trade by Spokane doctors after practicing with the team before and after Christmas.
He is not guaranted to suit up tonight against the Swift Current Broncos at 7 p.m. at the Centrium, though Sutter says he will not have to wait long for an opportunity to get in the lineup.
“Any player that misses time, it takes time (to get back to 100 per cent), it doesn’t matter who you are,” said Sutter. “He just needs to keep the game simple and make the easy plays until he gets himself into a groove and gets back his timing.”
He made it back to Red Deer at about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, marking the end of a long week of travel, between flying back and forth for Christmas and then making the roughly 825-kilometre drive through winter weather after the trade.
But it was a journey he was more than willing to make to play for a team he grew up watching.
“It’s awesome to be playing for my home town team, it feels good,” he said, adding he suspected something might be happening. “I didn’t really know where I was going, and then I found out it was here and it was the best thing ever.”
Sutter has been busy in recent weeks bringing in the likes of Bobyk, Nelson Nogier, Austin Adamson, Riley Sheen and Tyler Sandhu in separate trades since the beginning of the season. The Canadian Hockey League trade deadline is coming up on Jan. 10 and Sutter says he will continue to evalute his team and what’s available over the next two weeks.
“I’m very happy with the group we have here. We knew going into (the season) that we’d have to upgrade on our back end and we’ve been able to do that, and going into next year (Bobyk and Nogier) are 18,” said Sutter. “I just need to be patient with it and see how it all unfolds. If we stay with the status quo, I’m very happy with that too. The decisions that are being made are for this year and next year.”