He’s not exactly the Invisible Man, but Kayle Doetzel also isn’t the most noticeable of the Red Deer Rebels’ defencemen.
And considering his style of play, that’s a compliment.
“When you’re a defensive defenceman and you’re not overly visible, you’re usually doing the right things,” Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt said Thursday, in reference to the third-year rearguard.
Doetzel will likely never put up enough points to be considered an offensive defenceman, but the Rebels’ first-round pick in the 2010 WHL bantam draft has evolved into a safe blueliner who also plays with an edge. The 18-year-old has yet to score in 22 games this season, but he has recorded four assists and racked up 38 minutes in penalties.
More importantly, his plus-7 rating in the often telling plus-minus category is a team best.
“That’s a good plus-minus number and I have to keep that up,” said Doetzel. “I just have to continue to be a stay-at-home, physical defenceman who shuts guys down and is hard to play against.
“It’s been a good year I suppose. Obviously we want to be winning a lot more games . . . the team always comes first. Other than that everything is going well.”
Doetzel was a member of the Canadian U18 team that won gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in August of 2012 and was expected to carry that momentum over into the WHL season. Instead, his play plateaued somewhat and he was passed over in last June’s NHL entry draft.
To be fair, injuries limited Doetzel to 43 games in his rookie season of 2011-12 and 49 games last winter. The Nashville Predators were obviously convinced he still had pro potential, inviting the Rosetown, Sask., native to their rookie camp in early September.
Doetzel is convinced he returned to the Rebels with a better understanding of where and how much he needs to improve in order to one day earn a pro contract.
“Being at the rookie camp was a great experience. At that level you see a lot of good players and what it takes to be there,” he said. “You come back here and try to push yourself to be a player who can get to that next level.”
At the same time, Doetzel knows he has to play inside of his comfort zone. He won’t pretend to be something he isn’t.
“When I get a chance to join the rush I will, but I take pride in my defensive-zone play first,” he said. “Just be strong defensively, be hard to play against and keep the goals against down to none, if possible.”
His brief NHL experience serves as motivation, as does being overlooked in the entry draft.
“It just pushes you that much harder. You just want to prove everyone wrong,” he said.
Doetzel, as Truitt noted, is using his six-foot-three, 190-pound frame to greater advantage this season.
“The biggest thing we’ve seen out of Kayle this year from last year is he’s more physically engaged and playing more of a power game,” said Truitt. “He’s a defending type of defenceman who needs to just concentrate on what’s happening underneath his blueline.
“Any points that come because of that are a bonus, but we expect him to be an elite defender and a hard player to play against.”
Truitt insisted Doetzel’s plus-minus figure should not be overlooked.
“The biggest thing for a guy like him to concentrate on is the plus-minus. Did you do a good job against the lines you were up against? I think that’s a big key for him and it’s taken him to another level where last year he might not have played as hard or as physical because of the injuries he’s had. He’s overcome that stuff now and he’s playing with more power. “
The Rebels second-in-command bench boss is convinced that Doetzel has pro potential and could be a good fit with the right team.
“Someone has noticed him. He gets invited to Nashville’s camp, which is nice,” said Truitt. “He doesn’t sign a contract, but now he can go to any other team and they know he’s already been in a camp.
“He just needs to be one of those tough defending guys and some of those guys are very valuable to organizations.”