The Red Deer Rebels’ blueline will look much different in the 2016-17 season, with at least three defencemen slated to move on to the professional and possibly university ranks next year.
But, based on their performance in this year’s main and rookie camps at the Centrium, there are several candidates who could potentially step in and fill those spots as early as next fall.
“We have some really good young kids coming, kids who will fit in nicely on our blueline,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday at the conclusion of rookie camp.
One of the prospective future rearguards, 16-year-old Ethan Sakowich, participated in main camp this year, as did 1999-born forwards Austin Pratt, who is expected to crack the 2015-16 lineup, Akash Bains and Tanner Sidaway, and goaltender Dawson Weatherill.
Even with the five 16-year-old prospects in main camp, the rookie sessions featured plenty of talent, noted Sutter.
“The reality is rookie camp would have looked different with those five players. We had five pretty good 16-year-olds who weren’t in rookie camp and that changes the look of your rookie camp to some degree.”
While Pratt will almost certainly be with the Rebels this season, the other four ‘99s attending main camp are a year or more away.
“They’ll definitely have a chance to make our team next year,” said Sutter.
The Rebels boss was impressed with the overall potential shown in rookie camp, citing the performance of all nine of the club’s 2015 bantam draft picks — defencemen Jacob Herauf, the team’s first-round selection, Jacob Thomson, Jace Foskey and Spencer McHardy, and forwards Eli Zummack, Chase Lowry, Brendan Budy, Brandon Cutler and Jake Mulder. All but Thomson and Mulder were promoted to main camp for tonight’s 7 p.m. Black and White Game.
“There were some other 16’s who looked really good — (defenceman Carson) Sass is one — and our draft picks from this year were all good,” said Sutter. “We’re happy with where we’re at with our younger players. They have speed and size and we also have some really good smaller players like Zummack and Budy.”