Jordan DePape had an important meeting this morning and you can bet that his future team was interested in the discussion.
DePape met with the surgeon — Winnipeg Jets physician Peter MacDonald — who operated on his right shoulder in November. The 20-year-old forward was placed on the Red Deer Rebels list Jan. 10 and today’s consultation will give him a better idea of when he’ll be heading east to join his new club.
“It could be a week, it could be two weeks,” DePape said Wednesday. “I won’t know until (today). I’ll see what my surgeon says and then I’ll be in contact with the Rebels trainer and their surgeon.”
The rough timeline on DePape calls for him to be ready for game action in mid-March, although he feels his rehabilitation from surgery is ahead of schedule. DePape, who has been skating for just over four weeks, will continue his rehab in Red Deer.
The Winnipeg native had surgery on his left shoulder in November of 2011 and returned to the Kamloops Blazers lineup just prior to the start of last spring’s playoffs, in which he was second on the team in scoring with seven goals and 13 points in 11 games.
“I feel really good right now. When I look at where I am (with his rehab) to this point compared to last season, I’m way beyond above that, so it’s looking really good,” he said. “I’ve gradually started to shoot. When I’m stick-handling I’m feeling no pain and I’m shooting at probably 50 per cent power with no problem. It’s gradually getting better and better.
“I feel that I’m definitely still on pace to play by mid-March and it would be great to get into a couple of regular-season games before the playoffs. I’m getting anxious and it’s going to be important for me to gel with the team before I start playing. It would be nice for me to get out there as soon as possible.”
Unable to swing a deal for a quality overage player at the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter gladly added DePape to his 50-player protected list after learning that the veteran winger will be available for the playoffs.
It was actually Rebels director of scouting/player development Randy Peterson who contacted DePape just prior to the trade deadline.
“He called me to see if I’d be interested in going to Red Deer and I told him absolutely,” said DePape. “I exchanged a few calls with Sutter that day and the transaction went through that night.”
DePape had drawn earlier interest from Edmonton GM Bob Green, who then filled the Oil Kings quota of three 20-year-olds by acquiring forward Trevor Cheek from Vancouver just prior to the deadline.
“I knew there was still some interest in me from (WHL) teams,” said DePape. “But it’s tough for a team to add a 20-year-old and then be able to afford to wait until March. I’m grateful that Red Deer has given me this opportunity.”
It wasn’t until early January that DePape learned he could play this season. He hurt his shoulder during a collision last fall and after sitting out a week returned to the Kamloops lineup, only to be injured again five games later.
“It felt like a bit of a stinger, but we felt something was wrong. I had an MRI and it showed labrial tears (in the shoulder) and a partial dislocation,” said DePape, who was then advised by his doctor that his season — and ultimately his junior career — was over.
However, just a week after returning home to Winnipeg, DePape went under the knife and eight weeks later he was told that he could indeed return to game action by early spring.
“One of the reasons I thought my season was over that I didn’t think I’d get in for surgery as quick as I did,” he said. “But I’m a friend of Dr. MacDonald’s son and I’ve known him for a long time. I sent him a text the day I got home and a week later I had surgery. I’m very fortunate that he helped me out like this.”
DePape suffered a dislocation of his left shoulder in the fall of 2011, an injury that he termed as “more serious” than his latest misfortune. He was hurt when fighting Medicine Hat Tigers star Emerson Etem.
“It was a freak thing. When he grabbed on I felt the shoulder pop. It was fully dislocated,” said DePape. “There was more damage done with the first shoulder injury.”
DePape is cautiously optimistic that he might be able to play in early March.
“It would be nice to get into a couple of regular-season games. That would be great,” he said. “Last year I played seven or eight games before the playoffs and that injury (and ensuing surgery) took a bit longer to heal. I was back by March 2 and hopefully I’ll be able to play within a week of that this year.”
DePape carries 185 pounds on his six-foot frame.
“That’s the weight I played at after surgery last year. I had dropped 10 pounds due to muscle loss, but I actually felt better at that weight,” he said. “I just felt better on the ice, like I could move better, so I maintained that weight.”
DePape, who’s never been drafted but played with the Winnipeg Jets prospects in the 2011 Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., will use his time with the Rebels to hopefully audition for an NHL training camp invite.
“That would be ideal. My dream has always been to play pro, but wherever the game takes me I’ll be happy,” he said. “Plan B, something I’m very interested in, is going to school (university) and getting a degree. For now I’m just taking it day by day.”
DePape won’t be a stranger to the entire team when he reports to the Rebels. He played with defenceman Brandon Underwood and Brady Gaudet as well as forward Rhyse Dieno in Kamloops, and rookies Kevin Pochuk and Christian Stockl, both from Winnipeg, are friends of DePape’s younger brother.
DePape, who projects as a top-six forward with the Rebels, started his WHL career with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was dealt to Kamloops during the 2009-10 season. The following year he sniped 21 goals and collected 48 points in 54 games and put up 14 points (6-8) in 14 regular-season games in 2011-12.
He had six points, including four goals, in 17 games with the Blazers this season.
• The Rebels host the Kootenay Ice tonight at 7 p.m. and are in Lethbridge Friday to face the Hurricanes.