The experience of skating and practising with the Red Deer Rebels has been everything Carson Sass anticipated, and more.
In addition, his scheduled one-week visit with the WHL team may be extended and turn into something more.
“When I first found out I was coming to Red Deer I was excited, I couldn’t wait to get out here,” the Melville, Sask., native said Tuesday, prior to a practice session at the Kinex. “It’s been fun so far.”
It’s also been a bit of an eye-opener for Sass and fellow 16-year-old defenceman Ethan Sakowich, each of whom were invited by Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter to work out with the team this week.
“Brent said I’d be here a week, but it could be longer. I don’t know yet,” said Sass, who is a key member of the midget AAA Yorkton Maulers.
The six-foot-one, 175-pound rearguard has embraced the challenge of keeping up to the Red Deer regulars during practice.
“It’s different, a lot different than midget triple A back in Saskatchewan, but I think I can adjust to it,” he said. “For sure the practices are more structured, more upbeat and everything like that.”
Sutter watched Sass perform during a game between Yorkton and the host Saskatoon Blazers Nov. 8. He came away impressed.
“I like his overall game,” said Sutter. “He can skate, he moves the puck well and he’s got bite in his game. From his positional play in his own zone, you can tell he’s an intelligent player.
“I thought he was really good during the game I watched, and from what Randy (Rebels director of scouting/player development Peterson) and Shaun (assistant GM/director of player personnel Sutter) are saying he’s been really good all year.”
While it took several games to emerge, Sass has developed an offensive touch this season. In fact, he’s the Maulers’ top-scoring defenceman with five goals — including two on the power play — and 11 points in 17 games.
“I started the season off slow, in the first eight games I didn’t get a point,” he said.
“Then I got two points in one game and kind of rocked it from there … I got nine points in a five-game stretch.
“I kind of transformed into more of a two-way guy. Last year I was more defensive and now I’ve gained some confidence and got my offensive game up. I’m playing lots of minutes, including on the power play.
“I think I can play at this level. I want to play at this level and I guess we’ll see what happens.”
Sass has already signed a standard WHL education contract and will likely be with the Rebels sooner than later, but will it be this season, even on a look-see basis?
“Obviously he’s still young and still has a ways to go,” said Sutter. “But there’s certainly a real good upside there.
“He and Sakowich will stay here this week. They’ll watch us play Friday (versus the visiting Saskatoon Blades), practise with us Saturday and then we’ll see from there.”
Sutter said there is a possibility that one of both of the prospects will still be in Red Deer next week. With veteran defenceman Kayle Doetzel out week to week with a foot fracture and fellow rearguard Braden Purtill out until early December after undergoing surgery on a broken finger, the Rebels are down to six healthy blueliners, which would suggest that Sass and Sakowich could provide temporary depth.
Doetzel was injured during the Rebels’ last home game — a 4-3 win Nov. 3 over the Seattle Thunderbirds. He played the first two games of the team’s recent five-game road trip before being put on the injury list.
“He played two games after the injury, but it just wasn’t getting any better so we shut him down,” said Sutter. “He’ll be out for awhile.”
• Former Rebels netminder and Los Angeles Kings prospect Patrik Bartosak is facing 12 domestic-related assault charges after an incident Monday with his girlfriend.
Bartosak, 22, is facing a felony second degree assault charge, seven domestic simple assault charges, and three criminal threatening charges from the alleged incident according to L.A. Kings Insider Jon Rosen. The incident occurred while Bartosak was playing with the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs on a conditioning stint.
A statement from the L.A. Kings on Tuesday said, “This is a very serious matter and these allegations represent a type of behavior we do not stand for. We will continue to gather information and comment further when appropriate.”