With only three returning defencemen, the competition to crack the Red Deer Rebels blue line is wide open.
Among those gunning for an open spot is the Rebels Western Hockey League Bantam Draft first round pick from two seasons ago, Jacob Herauf.
“I don’t try to focus on when I was taken,” said Herauf. “It doesn’t matter where you go in the draft, you still have to work your bag off to be here. I’m under the same amount of pressure as anyone else trying to make this team.”
Defencemen Colton Bobyk, Austin Strand and Josh Mahura are the only three left from the 2015-16 Rebels opening day lineup. Ethan Sakowich and Carson Sass were late season callups who saw some ice time as injuries befell the Rebels during their playoff run.
Of note is Alexander Alexeyev, a 16-year-old Russian the Rebels selected in this summer’s import draft. The six-foot-three, 186-pounder from St. Petersburg is likely to make a good run at the roster as one of the Rebels two non-North American players.
A left-shooting defenceman, Herauf has bulked up heading into Rebels training camp, which opened Wednesday. The five-foot-10, 190-pounder played the last two seasons in the Sherwood Park minor hockey system for the Bantam Flyers in 2014-15 and the Midget Kings in 2015-16.
With the Kings he had one goal and eight assists in 32 games.
Herauf was a part of the Rebels prospects camp in June and he has been on the ice throughout the summer, getting ready for a chance to play on the Rebels blue line.
“It’s good to be on the ice with some old and new faces,” said Herauf. “It’s a higher paced practice. I just have to go out there and do my thing and I’ll be fine.
“We’ll see how training camp and preseason goes. They’re missing some guys, but the returning defencemen are still great defenceman. It would be an honour to play with those guys and I look up to them. They’re good role models.”
The Sherwood Park native strives to be a two-way defenceman.
“I want to make sure I’m not on for any goals and my defensive is at 100 per cent,” said Herauf. “After that, I’m going to try to contribute on offence, chip up on the play, and try to make a good first pass.
“And use my speed.”