Red Deer Rebels forwards Adam Musil and Grayson Pawlenchuk were considered to be prospects of varying calibres at the time of the 2012 WHL bantam draft.
A year and a half later the talented teammates are both among the elite 16-year-olds in the league, a fact that was verified Thursday when both were named to Team Pacific for the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 29-Jan. 4 in Cape Breton, N.S.
“Obviously, they’re both very good 16-year-old players,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Adam has always had a high profile, everyone knew he was going to be one of the top picks in the bantam draft.
“Pawly kind of flew under the radar screen and has basically developed into a first-round pick. He’s the guy the people at the (Team Pacific) summer selection camp were pleasantly surprised with. He stood out there and they liked him a lot.”
Pawlenchuk, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 bantam draft, 74th overall and well back of sixth overall pick Musil, opened his rookie WHL season with seven points — including four goals — in seven games before suffering a broken elbow Oct. 4 at Moose Jaw.
“I was happy with my start to the season, it was more than I was expecting,” he said Thursday, following a workout at Can-Pro. “I skated with some WHL and NHL and other pro players in Sherwood Park during the summer, which gave me a chance to get the feel for a higher level.
“And just having the chance to come in and play this season got me pretty excited. Plus, I was on a good line with Bleacks (Conner Bleackley) and Bells (Matt Bellerive). Now I’m going to have the opportunity to represent Alberta and B.C. and be able to put on the Canadian jersey. It will be pretty special to do that.”
However, the six-foot, 180-pound left winger is still listed as week-to-week while recovering and rehabbing from the surgery that followed the injury, and Sutter insisted he won’t play in the U17 Challenge unless he’s ready to rejoin the Rebels by the second week of December.
“If he’s not back with us by Dec. 10 or 12 he won’t be joining (Team Pacific),” said Sutter. “It’s a healing thing and the doctors have told us it could be anywhere from three to four or four and a half weeks before he’s ready to play. So that’s where it’s at. I’m not going to rush him back just so he can go to the Under 17. If we put him back into our lineup too early he could easily get injured again.
“It’s been a five-week process to this point with the surgery, the healing and the rehab. It’s a tremendous honour for him and Adam to be named to Team Pacific and something they should be proud of. Our team is certainly proud of them, but at the same time we have to look out for the interest of the player. If Grayson is healthy and playing, then he’ll be released to go. If not, he won’t be released.”
The Ardrossan product is confident that he’ll be back in action sooner than later.
“It’s like a week-to-week thing,” said Pawlenchuk. “I’m starting to strengthen the elbow and I pretty much have full range of motion, so I don’t see it being that much longer. But it will be a few weeks. It will be up to the doctor I’m seeing and Jordan (Rebels athletic therapist Aube).
“For sure, I want to get back for a couple of games before Christmas so I can get used to the speed again and be in game shape for the Under 17 Challenge.”