Let the position battles begin at Rebels camp

The Red Deer Rebels open training camp Thursday as a team that doesn’t appear to have many openings up front but could feature a new-look back end for the 2014-15 Western Hockey League season. With the departure of graduating forwards Rhyse Dieno and Lucas Sutter and the off-season retirement of Vukie Mpofu, as few as three forward berths are up for grabs. Mason McCarty and Brayden Burke, both 17, are at the front of the employment line, along with 16-year-old Jeff de Wit.

The Red Deer Rebels open training camp Thursday as a team that doesn’t appear to have many openings up front but could feature a new-look back end for the 2014-15 Western Hockey League season.

With the departure of graduating forwards Rhyse Dieno and Lucas Sutter and the off-season retirement of Vukie Mpofu, as few as three forward berths are up for grabs. Mason McCarty and Brayden Burke, both 17, are at the front of the employment line, along with 16-year-old Jeff de Wit.

“There’s a couple, maybe three to four spots available,” Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday. “We brought in a lot of 16-year-olds last year (seven, including part-timers McCarty and Burke). As it stands, this year our only 16s will be Jeff and (defenceman Josh) Mahura and it will be interesting to see who else might be close.”

The Rebels’ 2014-15 roster will be top heavy with 17- and 18-year-olds as Sutter continues to build towards what he hopes will be a successful bid to host the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament.

“We’ll have probably 12 players who are still eligible to play at the midget level,” said the Rebels boss, “so we’re still going to be a young team. The difference now is that a lot of these guys have experience in our league. We went young last year knowing that it could affect us, but that was a decision we made when we were looking ahead to bidding for the Memorial Cup.”

Carolina Hurricanes first-round NHL entry draft pick Haydn Fleury will anchor the Rebels’ defence this winter, along with fellow veterans Kayle Doetzel and Brett Cote, acquired from the Victoria Royals in May. Mahura is a virtual pick for another blueline berth and imports Hugo Jansons and Mario Grman will both get every chance to crack the lineup.

Also in the mix are returnees Nick Charif, Kirk Bear, Devan Faford and Kolton Dixon, rookie hopefuls Austin Shmoorkoff and Austin Strand, both 17, and new face Alex Pernitsky, 18. Bear and Dixon are 19 and Fafard is 20, and with all three slotted in as forwards for main camp, they might have to find employment at that position.

Jansons, a native of Latvia and Red Deer’s first-round pick in this year’s CHL import draft, and second-round pick Grman arrived in Red Deer Monday. Sutter hasn’t seen either player skate but is impressed with their physical dimensions.

“They’re good-sized kids. Both are in the six-foot-one, 190-pound range,” said Sutter.

Pernitsky is a listed, unsigned player, but Sutter and his coaching staff gave the six-foot, 190-pound defender the thumbs up on the few occasions they watched him play last season. The Unity, Sask., native accumulated seven goals, 25 points and 30 penalty minutes in 35 regular-season games for the midget AAA Battlefords Stars, and another 12 points (3-9) in 10 playoff outings.

“We’re hoping he can push to make our team,” said Sutter. “Last year he was very dominant at the midget AAA level as a 17-year-old. He’s a big, solid kid who’s a pretty good skater and can really shoot the puck. We saw him play last year and liked him, but is he ready for this level? That’s what we have to see through training camp and practices.”

The club currently has four 20-year-olds in Fafard, Cote, Brooks Maxwell and Aspen Sterzer, meaning one will have to be traded or released by mid-October.

Maxwell, Sterzer and Colorado Avalanche first-round pick Conner Bleackley will be expected to put up 20-plus goals this season. Other potential 20-goal scorers include Adam Musil, Scott Feser, Grayson Pawlenchuk, Wyatt Johnson, Presten Kopeck and possibly Evan Polei, who was one of the club’s bright spots down the 2013-14 stretch and has been invited to attend the St. Louis Blues camp next month.

Of course, the Rebels’ offence will only improve if the defencemen move the puck to the forwards with authority. Of the potential blueline newcomers, Mahura is a talented puck mover and the two imports are advertised as such.

“The forwards are all a year older and you always want to see improvement from them,” said Sutter, who is well aware of the fact that a mobile defence will make a larger difference in terms of creating more team offence.

“If we’ve been told the right things about the European players, they’re going to add more ability on the back end and be guys who can go back and get pucks and move pucks. But there’s going to be an adjustment time for them.”

Just two goaltenders — returnee Taz Burman, 17, and 18-year-old Rylan Toth — are on the Rebels’ main camp roster. Clearly, they’ll be expected to carry the load in 2014-15.

“Hopefully they can give us some quality games. We’ll have to use them both which should make us that much better next year,” said Sutter.

With the heavy influx of new players this year and last, Sutter is hoping that the club has the proper building blocks to become a serious contender in the not-too-distant future, that he doesn’t have to wheel and deal to find the proper pieces.

“This is a year we’re hoping we can do a lot of building from within,” he said. “We don’t want to have to make a bunch of trades. There have been too many quick fixes made in recent years because of elements that just unfolded. We can’t be that way.

“We can’t be making a pile of trades, and that starts with having the right players come into your program from the get-go. I’m feeling more comfortable that way than I have the last couple of years.”

• Just notes: Fleury, who recently signed a three-year entry-level deal with Carolina, is currently in New York at an NHL licensing/skills event and won’t attend the Rebels camp. He’ll be back in Red Deer next week . . . De Wit will also miss camp after suffering an injury at the recent Hockey Canada under-16 development camp in Calgary . . . All players — rookies and veterans — will register for camp today and the first ice time is set for 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. Thursday (rookie goalies) . . . The camp will conclude with the Black and White intrasquad game at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Centrium.

Camp itinerary

Thursday — Rookie goalies, 9:15-9:45 a.m.; rookie scrimmage, 10-11:30 a.m.; alumni pro skate, 12-1:30 p.m.; main practice, 2-3:30 p.m.; rookie scrimmage, 4-5:30 p.m.

Friday — Main practice Group A, 8-8:45 a.m.; rookie scrimmage, 9-10:30 a.m.; main practice Group B, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; alumni pro skate, 12-1:30 p.m.; rookie scrimmage, 3-4:30 p.m.; main game, 5-6:30 p.m.

Saturday — Main practice Group B, 8-8:45 a.m.; rookie scrimmage, 9-10:30 a.m.; main practice Group A, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; alumni pro skate, 12-1:30 p.m.; main game, 4:30-6 p.m.

Sunday — Pre-game skate Team Black, 8:30-9:15 a.m.; pre-game skate Team White, 9:30-10:15 a.m.; Black and White game, 5 p.m.

Main camp roster (includes year of birth and hometown)


Goal — x-Taz Burman, 1997, Vancouver; Rylan Toth, ‘96, Saskatoon.

Defence — Alex Pernitsky, 1996, Unity, Sask; x-Kayle Doetzel, ‘96, Rosetown, Sask.; Brett Cote, ‘94, Oak Bank, Man.; Hugo Jansons, ‘97, Riga, Latvia; x-Nick Charif, ‘95, Edmonton; Mario Grman, ‘97, Topolcany, Slovakia; Austin Shmoorkoff, ‘97, Edmonton; Austin Strand, ‘97, Calgary.

Forwards — x-Evan Polei, 1996, Edmonton; x-Conner Bleackley, ‘96, High River; x-Brooks Maxwell, ‘94, Raymond; x-Meyer Nell, ‘97, Boissevain, Man.; x-Presten Kopeck, ‘95, Medicine Hat; x-Wyatt Johnson, ‘95, Saskatoon; x-Grayson Pawlenchuk, ‘97, Ardrossan; x-Adam Musil, ‘97, Delta, B.C.; Mason McCarty, ‘97, Blackie; x-Devan Fafard, ‘94, Carlyle, Sask.; x-Scott Feser, ‘95, Red Deer; x-Cole Chorney, ‘96, Beaumont; x-Kirk Bear, ‘95, Whitewood, Sask.; Brayden Burke, ‘97, Edmonton; x-Kolton Dixon, ‘95, Red Deer.

Rookie camp (includes year of birth and hometown)

Team Grey

Goal — Colby Entz, 1998, Churchbridge, Sask.; Linden Boulet, ‘99, Clairmont.

Defence — Carson Sass, 1999, Melville, Sask.; Cale Chalifoux, ‘98, Edmonton; Kyle Sargent, ‘98, Carlyle, Sask.; Tylor Ludwar, ‘99, Regina; Matthew Kasowski, ‘99, St. Albert; Austin Wagner, ‘99, Medicine Hat.

Forwards — Josh Logel, 1998, Calgary; Jake Lechyshyn, ‘99, Grasswood, Sask.; Austin Pratt, ‘99, Lakeville, Minn.; Chase Stevenson, ‘99, West Kelowna; Quinton McAndrews, ‘98, Edmonton; Brayden Labant, ‘99, St. Paul; Bronson Littlechilds, ‘98, Edmonton; Tanner Sidaway, ‘99, Victoria; Zachary Gladu, ‘98, Medicine Hat; Cruz Cote, ‘99, Falher; Luke Farrell, ‘99, Bruderheim.

Team Burgundy

Goal — Dawson Weatherill, ‘99, Red Deer; Alex Geddes, ‘99, Yorkton, Sask.

Defence — Josh Mahura, ‘98, St. Albert; Boo Grist, ‘99, North Saanich, B.C.; Ethan Sakowich, ‘99, Athabasca; Max Salpeter, 1998, St. Albert; Wyatt Arndt, ‘99, Weyburn, Sask.; Carter Brown, ‘98, Edmonton; Malcolm Thakurdeen, ‘99, Saskatoon.

Forwards — Chance Adrian, ‘99, Dalmeny, Sask.; Shane Sherban, ‘98, Lanigan, Sask.; Reese Johnson, ‘98, Saskatoon; Akash Bains, ‘99, Delta, B.C.; Tyler Kirkup, ‘98, Virden, Man.; Caleb Riess, ‘98, Rocanville, Sask.; Seth Benson, ‘99, Moorhead, Minn.; Austin LeDuc, ‘98, Okotoks; Jake Langenhahn, ‘99, St. Albert; Mason Issel, ‘99, Prince Albert, Sask.; Drayson Skulmoski, ‘98, Moosomin, Sask.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read