It appears highly likely that Scott Feser’s junior A hockey days are over.
That he’s a full-time WHLer for the remainder of this season is a given, and he quite possibly will be back with the Red Deer Rebels as a 20-year-old when the club heads into next season preparing to host the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament.
The 19-year-old Red Deer native played nine games with the Rebels in 2011-12 and split the following season between the WHL club and the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior League. After starting the 2013-14 season with Camrose and the AJHL Okotoks Oilers, Feser was recalled by the Rebels, and the rest is history.
Given another chance to perform full-time at the major junior level, Feser contributed 28 points — including 15 goals — in 46 games with the Rebels last winter and has carried that momentum over into the current season. Heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. home-ice clash with the Moose Jaw Warriors, the five-foot-11, 176-pound centre is tied with Wyatt Johnson for the Rebels scoring lead with 10 goals and 27 points in 29 games.
Clearly, Feser has arrived as an offensive threat, looking much like the player who starred for the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs during their run to the 2012 Telus Cup championship.
“I’ve always been an offensive player and you have to remain confident in those abilities,” he said Thursday. “It takes time to mature at this level and when you get an opportunity to take on a more offensive role you just have to work hard and do your best to make the most of it.
“I’m just trying to keep working hard and doing the things that have always worked for me. Some bounces have been going the right way, but as long as I’m being responsible at both ends of the ice then I’m doing my job.”
Feser has developed into a key part of a Rebels team that has scored at an impressive clip this season. Only two Eastern Conference teams — Brandon and Calgary — have produced more goals than the Rebels, and yet Johnson and Feser sit well down the list of the league’s top offensive producers, tied for 32nd in scoring.
In short, the Rebels have three lines that contribute offensively on a consistent basis and a fourth forward unit that doesn’t take a back seat to any in the conference.
“We have the most depth on our team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Feser. “We have three lines that can go out and score and take over games. I think that’s what can make us successful — that any line can step up. Our fourth line contributes as well. It’s been impressive.”
While Feser is dialed in on the current season, he admitted his thoughts sometimes wander to what might be in 2015-16, and whether he’ll be with the club as an overage skater.
“It’s kind of in the back of your mind, but it’s not really something to focus on right now,” he said. “Just being here this season and working hard doing my job now . . . that’s all I can control.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt sees Feser as a valuable, two-way, versatile player.
“He’s really been doing a great job offensively, using his shot to his advantage,” said Truitt.
“He’s showing that veteran savvy that has developed over the last year. He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, he takes faceoffs. He’s a very reliable, consistent player for us and he’s been a real good catalyst.”
In the event that the Rebels’ roster remains much the same heading into next season — with the exception of the graduating players, of course — Feser will join fellow forwards Johnson and Presten Kopek and defencemen Kayle Doetzel, Nick Charif and Kolton Dixon as the 20-year-olds in the mix for three jobs.
Johnson is likely a given to land one of the overage spots. The others are up for grabs with Feser currenty a favourite to land one.
“He’s definitely in that consideration, for sure,” said Truitt. “He such a good character kid too. There is a lot of things that go with that 20-year-old position, from character to contributing offensively.
“A 20-year-old has to be a leader on and off the ice in different ways. He can handle that, for sure. He’s proven that this year.”