Now that he’s playing on two healthy knees, Colton Bobyk has a leg up on his opponents.
The Red Deer Rebels defenceman underwent surgery on his left knee in late April and is off to an impressive offensive start this season with two goals and five points in as many games. The Rimbey native is a good skater with a heavy shot, and for the first time in a year is playing with the confidence that should be commonplace with a Western Hockey League veteran.
“It was a big decision last season regarding whether I would have the surgery, but I’m glad I had it,” the 19-year-old former Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Chiefs star said Thursday. “My knee feels a lot better than it did. It took time during the summer to recover, but it’s stronger now.
“My left knee feels stronger than my right knee. I feel more confident now after having the surgery.”
Bobyk’s knee problem started last fall while he was preparing for his second full season with the Spokane Chiefs. As a result, he appeared in only eight games with the Chiefs — scoring once and adding three helpers — before being dealt to the Rebels in December.
“My kneecap popped out during the preseason and then it happened again around Christmas,” he said. “Once it popped out the first time, it was always going to happen again.”
He eventually returned to action with Red Deer and showed his offensive talents by contributing 11 points (4g,7a) in 22 regular-season games and adding a goal and an assist in five playoff outings.
“I wore a brace and put tape on it. I held it together as much as I could through the season before having surgery,” he said.
The rehab was along and arduous.
“I didn’t start skating until the beginning of August,” he said. “That was tough, not being able to skate with the other guys.”
But that’s all in the past. The six-foot-two-, 198-pound blueliner is healthy and happy and is displaying the offensive talents he’s always had.
“Getting the surgery done was huge,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Instead of playing at 60 per cent like he was when we acquired him, he’s back to 100 per cent.
“With him, it’s a confidence thing knowing that his knee is fine now. He’s a very strong player with his shot and his offensive presence and he’s a 19-year-old so expectations are higher than they were when he came in last year. We brought him in so he could be one of our key defencemen, and offensively he’s been that.”
Bobyk still needs some fine-tuning in order to become a more rounded rearguard, Sutter noted.
“Bobs just has to stay within the confines of a defenceman and let the game come to him instead of him pushing the game without the puck,” said the Rebels boss. “His positional play has to get better and we have to continue to work with him on that.
“But his discipline has been a lot better and obviously he’s given us good offensive production.”
The Rebels are coming off their first loss of the season — 5-2 at Lethbridge Tuesday — after opening with four wins, and are in Calgary tonight for the first half of a home-and-home set with the Hitmen that concludes with a Saturday contest at the Centrium.
Bobyk admitted the Rebels, as a team, were lacking in aggression and discipline at Lethbridge. The club didn’t come close to playing with the same intensity as was the case in the previous four games.
“It wasn’t just a few guys who weren’t very good, it was all of us,” he said. “It was a team thing, we just weren’t there. But we’ve regrouped and it won’t happen again.
“We worked hard in practice yesterday and we’ll be good for the weekend.”
Bobyk doesn’t foresee many down times for the Rebels — the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament hosts — this season if they play to their potential.
“I think we have one of the best defensive corps in the league and with our offence we’re going to score four, five, six goals a game. We have solid goaltending too,” he said.