With his free-agent appearance at the Anaheim Ducks rookie camp just over a week away, Wyatt Johnson got in some successful shooting practice Wednesday evening at the Centrium.
Johnson fired three goals in the third period, albeit in a losing cause, as Team White fell 6-5 to Team Black in the Red Deer Rebels intrasquad game before roughly 1,500 fans.
“Yeah, it was good to pot a few,” said the Rebels 20-year-old forward, whose team trailed 5-0 after 40 minutes before mounting a fierce third-period rally. “We didn’t get the start we wanted but we made it close in the third.
“It’s always nice to see the fans come out for the Black and White game. We always get lots of support.”
Johnson, who joins forward Presten Kopeck and defenceman Kayle Doetzel as the Rebels’ three overage players heading into a season that will conclude with the team hosting the Memorial Cup tournament next May, will attend the Ducks rookie camp for a second year in succession.
“I’m really excited to get another opportunity there,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
He won’t have to wait long, with the Anaheim camp set to open Sept. 10.
The Saskatoon native is coming off a strong Rebels training camp, his third since joining the club as a 17-year-old in a mid-September of 2012 trade with the Vancouver Giants.
“Camp went well,” he said. “The older guys came in a few days ahead of the rookies and got all our fitness tests done. That was good, we had a couple of team building things and we’re all excited to get the season going.”
Jack McClelland, with two goals, Austin Strand, Lane Pederson, Ivan Nikolishin and 15-year-old Brendan Budy scored for Team Black, which opened a 3-0 lead after one period. Pederson added three assists and Nikolishin and Budy each picked up a helper.
Conner Bleackley and Evan Polei accounted for the other Team White markers. Polei also added two assists.
“I think there were some good individual performances tonight, although the white team didn’t get going until the last half of the game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“But in the third they played well. I thought it was an entertaining game. There was a lot of different things that went on out there tonight.”
As expected, most of the veteran skaters stood out, but forwards Budy and fellow 15-year-old forward Eli Zummack — two of the smaller players on the ice — made their presence felt.
“I thought Budy was really good and I thought we had a quite a few younger defencemen who were pretty good, too,” said Sutter, who kept three 15-year-old rearguards — Jace Foskey, Jacob Herauf and Spencer McHardy — for the Black and White contest, as well as 16-year-old blueliners Carson Sass, Ethan Sakowich and Boo Grist.
Trevor Martin pitched a shutout as the Team White netminder through the first 32 minutes of the game, before being replaced by Solomon Burk. Rebels veteran and projected starter for the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season, Rylan Toth, surrendered three goals while being bombarded with shots before giving up the crease to Dawson Weatherill.
• With Johnson added to the Ducks’ rookie camp roster, the Rebels have eight players attending NHL camps this fall. As a result, icing a team with close to the preferred number of players will be difficult when the team plays two preseason games in the Tri-City Americans tournament Sept. 11-12 in Kennewick. Wash.
“It’s not going to be too bad this weekend,” said Sutter, referring to a Saturday outing versus the Edmonton Oil Kings at St. Albert. “But I’m not sure what we’re going to do the following weekend in Tri-City.
“We’ll be down to eight forwards and eight or nine defencemen. Some defencemen might have to play up front. You have to be able to ice a team for two nights and we’ll have to get as close to 19 or 20 players as we can.”
• The Rebels reassigned 10 players following the Black and White game, the list including Burk, defencemen Foskey, Grist, McHardy and Boedy Donald, and forwards Budy, Tyler Kirkup, Brayden Labant, Jack Langenhahn and Shane Sherban.