If Kayle Doetzel was a cartoon character, he’d be Joe Btfspik, the jinxed, hard-luck individual from the old cartoon strip L’il Abner.
The Red Deer Rebels defenceman has had a dark cloud looming over his head for some time now. He was limited to 14 games during his final season of midget AAA hockey in Saskatoon due to injuries and appeared in only 43 games last winter — his first in the WHL — for the same reason.
After playing with victorious Team Canada in the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in August, a healthy Doetzel was primed to elevate his game to a new level in 2012-13. But he endured a broken jaw during an Oct. 3 game at Saskatoon and will finally return to the Red Deer lineup tonight against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
“When the season started I thought I was playing pretty well. But the season kind of got cut short when I was hurt after just six games,” said the Rosetown, Sask., product. “It’s tough when you’re sitting out. It’s not fun watching your team play and having to stay back when the team goes on the road. You’d rather be with the guys.
“I’ve had a lot of bad luck and hopefully it’s over now. I’m getting sick of the injuries.”
Speaking of hardships, Doetzel wasn’t particularly fond of having his jaw wired shut, which was the case for roughly six weeks.
“It seemed like forever,” he said. “My diet was all liquids, a lot of blended stuff like protein shakes. And a lot of soup too.”
As a result, Doetzel lost about 10 pounds, most of which he has since regained since the wire was removed on Nov. 14.
“I’m almost back up to my normal weight,” said the six-foot-three, 190-pound rearguard.
Central Scouting has Doetzel as the 14th-ranked WHL skater for the 2013 NHL entry draft. The second-year Rebel, of course, can improve that ranking with his performance in the coming weeks and months and particularly if he is one of the 40 players selected to compete in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 16 in Halifax.
“Hopefully I can impress the scouts when I get back in there,” he said.
“I’ll try to make the best of it and we’ll see what happens.”
Despite his history of injuries, Doetzel insisted he won’t alter his style when he returns to action tonight.
“I’ll just play my normal physical game, be a hard guy to play against,” he said.
Doetzel was the Rebels’ first-round pick — 12th overall — in the 2010 WHL bantam draft and remains a work in progress, which is not a knock on the youngster considering his age (17) and the fact he’s missed large chunks of the past and current season.
“He’s a young guy who’s still learning the game,” said Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter.
“He’s definitely very dependable defensively and we still need to work with him on the offensive side of his game and on his overall sense of the game.
“He’s a young guy still learning that and he has to learn it playing at a high pace. But he’s a good kid. He’s willing to learn and we’re certainly pleased to have him back in our lineup.”