Doetzel growing with Rebels

Perhaps it just goes hand-in-hand that Kayle Doetzel is enjoying his finest season as a Red Deer Rebel at a time when the team looks like a potential Western Hockey League championship contender. The 19-year-old has been a mainstay on the Rebels blueline this winter, a non-wandering, physical force with the necessary size (six-foot-three, 198 pounds) to punish opposing forwards.

Perhaps it just goes hand-in-hand that Kayle Doetzel is enjoying his finest season as a Red Deer Rebel at a time when the team looks like a potential Western Hockey League championship contender.

The 19-year-old has been a mainstay on the Rebels blueline this winter, a non-wandering, physical force with the necessary size (six-foot-three, 198 pounds) to punish opposing forwards.

“I definitely feel like my year’s been strong and I guess that kind of shows with the team too,” Doetzel said Friday, roughly 24 hours prior to tonight’s 7 p.m. engagement with the Vancouver Giants at the Centrium. “The team comes first. If the team does well then it comes down on all the players and everyone succeeds.”

In the 2012-13 season, Doetzel’s second with the club, the Rebels finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and won a playoff series before being eliminated by the Calgary Hitmen in the second round. Red Deer missed the playoffs during his other two seasons, but that’s highly unlikely to happen this year and in fact the Rebels currently resemble a team that could make some serious post-season noise.

“We’ve been good in the past, but not this good,” said the Rosetown, Sask., product, the Rebels’ first-round pick in the 2011 WHL bantam draft. “This is by far the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here, defensively and offensively.

“We can put the puck in the net and I feel we have a lot of strong guys on the back end who can shut everyone down.”

Doetzel, who already has accumulated a career season high in points with one goal and 12 assists in 46 games — to go with 41 minutes in penalties and a plus-7 rating — is clearly near or at the top of the list of Red Deer shutdown blueliners.

“And the nice part about it is he knows what he’s going to have to be at the next level,” said Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt. “He’s a stay-at-home, shutdown type of defender who plays a physical game and a simple game in our zone . . . just move pucks up to the forwards and let them go.

“It’s a craft that a lot of teams look for at the next level. You need those shutdown guys, guys who are going to be able to kill penalties and be reliable in the final minutes of a period.

“Kayle has done a great job for us this season. He’s stronger this year than he was last year and he’s also understanding his strength. He can match up against anybody in this league.”

Doetzel has passed through two NHL drafts without being selected, but has attended two NHL camps — with Nashville and Toronto — as a free agent.

“Not getting drafted just kind of gives you that extra motivation and going to those camps shows that teams are interested in you and that you have that potential in you,” he said. “It makes you feel good to go to the camps and you just have to watch the older guys and see what they put into it and then take that and improve.”

In the event that he doesn’t earn a pro contract following the current season, Doetzel will be a strong candidate to earn one of the Rebels’ three 20-year-old berths for the club’s 2015-16 Memorial Cup hosting campaign.

“Hopefully I’ll get another (pro) tryout after this season and get a contract, and there’s also the possibility that next season I could come back as a 20-year-old and play in the Memorial Cup,” he said. “That would be an exciting time.”

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