Jake Leschyshyn isn’t here for a long time; he’s here for a good learning time.
Next year he’ll be in Red Deer for a long time.
“He’s going to stay here with us next week, practise with the team and play the two (preseason) games next weekend in St. Albert,” said Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter in reference to the club’s first-round pick in this year’s WHL bantam draft, a player who — not surprisingly — stood out in rookie camp and was moved into main camp Friday.
The Rebels simply couldn’t pass on the son of former NHL defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn when he was still available at No. 6 in May’s bantam draft. There have been no regrets, at least as far as Sutter and his scouts are concerned.
“He’s an all-around player with a great understanding of the game. He’s a very smart player, a good skater and he can shoot the puck,” said Sutter.
“There are guys on our team, older guys, who don’t have the details that Jake does.
“He comes from a super family and his dad played a long time in the NHL. His dad was a very detailed defenceman with some skill and Jake is no different. He’s a complete player.”
The younger Leschyshyn also has a dogged work ethic; he’s the Energizer Bunny on skates.
“He doesn’t stop and you can tell that that’s part of his DNA,” said Sutter.
Leschyshyn admitted Friday that he’s been all eyes and ears during his first appearance at a WHL camp.
“So far, so good,” he said of the enjoyment factor. “It’s been really fun to be here and see what the Rebels are all about. I’ve been able to meet some of the guys and see how the WHL is from a players’ standpoint.”
The 15-year-old Saskatoon native is looking forward to playing in Sunday’s 5 p.m. Black and White intrasquad game and the Rebels’ first two exhibition outings next weekend at St. Albert, against the Prince George Cougars and Swift Current Broncos.
“That will be a big step up for me, but it will be really fun to play against guys at this level,” he said.
Leschyshyn will suit up with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League this season, with his father serving as an assistant coach. The future Rebel played a handful of games at the midget AAA level last season and more than held his own.
“It was good, I really enjoyed playing up with the more skilled and older players. Certainly the speed of the game was faster,” he said.
One year from now, Leschyshyn will be settling into a three- to four-year stint in Red Deer, enrolling in high school and getting acquainted with his billet family.
l The final Rebels rookie camp scrimmage is set for 9 a.m. today and Sutter has been nothing but impressed with the calibre of 15- and 16-year-old players on hand this year.
Big and skilled would be the definitive words for the overall roster of players who attended the 2014 freshman camp.
“The size part is a big factor, yet it’s not just size . . . it’s size with guys who can skate and have skill. That’s certainly encouraging,” said the Rebels boss.
“We have guys who have been invited to camp . . . guys who have really stood out, and that just shows how much they’ve improved over the last year and even the bantam draft in May. These are guys our scouts have recognized were bubble players for the draft and now look like they were draftable players.
“But that’s the thing with these young kids. You can’t get impatient with them, you can’t write them off. They can change within the span of one year.”
As a result, Sutter said the club will list as many as four to five undrafted players in early September.