It was with assorted emotions that Red Deer Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury watched Monday’s World Junior Hockey Championship gold-medal game.
“For sure, any time you come close to (making) a team you almost hope they don’t win, but at the same time it’s your country that they’re playing for and you always have that pride for your country to win the gold at those kinds of tournaments,” Fleury said Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Carolina Hurricanes prospect was one of the final four players — and the last defenceman — to be cut by Team Canada head coach Benoit Groulx and his staff on Dec. 12. The 22-man Canadian squad went on to post a perfect record in the WJC at Toronto and Montreal, capturing the country’s first gold medal since 2009 with a dramatic 5-4 win over Russia.
“Yeah, it was mixed emotions for me, but I was happy for a lot of buddies I have on the team that they won the gold,” said Fleury.
The third-year Rebels rearguard, who was selected seventh overall by the Hurricanes in last year’s NHL entry draft, was of the opinion that his performance during the Canadian team’s final selection camp and a handful of exhibition games was sufficient to earn him a berth with the national squad. Then he and forward Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm, Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals and Rourke Chartier of the Kelowna Rockets were informed that they were going home.
“I was disappointed,” said Fleury. “I thought I played well enough in the camp to make the team and make a difference on the team, but I guess the coaches didn’t see it that way.”
Fleury is close with several players on the gold-medal team, including Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri, who missed the championship game with a high ankle injury.
“I played with a lot of those guys (on Canadian under-18 teams) and then got to know more of them during the (Team Canada) summer camp and during the (CHL) Super Series, so I was happy that they all won gold,” he said.
“Jake Virtanen and I have gotten really close over the past couple of years and Brayden Point is another good friend of mine. It’s always nice to see those guys win.”
Regarding the Rebels and the second half of the WHL season, Fleury is excited about the club’s direction considering the recent additions of defencemen Nelson Nogier and Colton Bobyk and forward Connor Gay.
“We’ve added a lot of good pieces and we really haven’t given up much,” he said.
“We’ve kept our dressing room intact for the most part. We’ve only lost a few younger guys and some depth players.
“I think it’s going to be a really bright second half (of the season) for our team and that’s exciting.”
Fleury missed last Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win at Lethbridge with a pressure cut on his elbow.
The laceration was stitched and he’s hopeful of returning to the Red Deer lineup for Friday and Saturday meetings with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook and the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings.
— Gay, who was acquired from the Regina Pats Monday, was en route to Red Deer Tuesday, with bad road conditions delaying his arrival . . . As expected, the Kelowna Rockets officially acquired forward Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders Tuesday in return for forward Kris Schmidli, defenceman Dalton Yorke and three bantam draft picks — a first-rounder in 2015, a fourth in 2016 and a conditional fourth in either 2016 or 2017. Draisaitl was reassigned by the Edmonton Oilers during the weekend . . . In other WHL trades Tuesday, Saskatoon sent defenceman Adam Henry to Portland for a second-round pick in 2017, and shipped forward Alex Forsberg, a third-round selection this year and a fourth-round pick in 2016 to Victoria in exchange for forward Brayden Dunn and a first-round pick in 2017; the Calgary Hitmen picked up goaltender Brendan Burke from Portland in return for netminder Evan Johnson and a fourth-round pick in 2016; Regina dealt defenceman Brady Reagan to Lethbridge in return for forward Taylor Cooper; Prince George acquired defenceman Tomas Andrlik from Prince Albert for a 12th-round selection this year; and Moose Jaw obtained defenceman Connor Clouston from Kamloops for a fifth-round pick in 2017.