Array

Array

Mpofu is a student of the game

While he’s not yet a top-flight Western Hockey League player, Vukie Mpofu is an A-plus student of the game. The Red Deer Rebels rookie forward is catching on to the major junior brand with a mixture of speed and physical play and is doing everything within his power to improve as a player.

While he’s not yet a top-flight Western Hockey League player, Vukie Mpofu is an A-plus student of the game.

The Red Deer Rebels rookie forward is catching on to the major junior brand with a mixture of speed and physical play and is doing everything within his power to improve as a player.

Mpofu nearly cracked the Rebels roster last year, but instead was returned to the Saskatoon Contacts and won the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League scoring race with 71 points (31g,40a) in 43 games. He knew he wouldn’t experience the same offensive prowess as a Rebels rookie, but he’s shown gradual improvement in all areas.

“Playing here was a bit of a learning curve at first but each and every day you start to feel a little bit better, a little more comfortable,” the 17-year-old said Thursday.

“Right now I feel a lot better than I did earlier in the season. I like where things are headed and I’m always challenging myself to be better.”

The Saskatoon native, who made four appearances with the Rebels last winter, fully realized that he was facing an entirely new challenge heading into his first WHL regular-season game as a full-time member of the team.

“It’s another level obviously and the preparation is a lot more intense,” he said. “The demands and the accountability are a lot more significant at this level, but in the end if you love what you do and you want to be the best that you can be every day, you’ll have success. It’s all about putting the work in and that’s what I’m trying to do every day.

“I try to work on all aspects of my game, whether it’s on the ice or in the gym or doing stretching and stuff like that . . . just doing something every day so that you’re better than you were the day before.”

His work in the Rebels’ dressing room gymnasium has certainly paid off as Mpofu has added a few pounds of muscle to his five-foot-nine frame and also improved his skating stride.

“For sure, it’s helped me to be more explosive. That’s the biggest thing, to try to be a better skater,” he said.

“It’s kind of just something you have to do to try and get a leg up on the other guys. I want to be the best skater that I can be so I do a lot of leg exercises. When you’re a good skater and skate explosively, it’s easy to be a physical player because you’re there. You’re there on time and that’s kind of the biggest thing for me.”

The 170-pound Mpofu has scored twice and added three assists in 32 games this season. He’s also racked up 28 minutes in penalties and isn’t afraid to mix it up, as he showed Tuesday when he was engaged in two fights during a 6-0 loss to the host Lethbridge Hurricanes.

“It’s not something that you really think about beforehand, but the emotion of the game and the situation of the game at times calls for it,” he said. “As far as the other night goes, I had two (fights) and that won’t happen very often. But the situation kind of led to that.

“The team sometimes needs someone to provide a spark. It doesn’t have to be a fight, but whatever it calls for at that time, someone has to step up and do it and I don’t mind being that guy.”

Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt has been pleased with Mpofu’s progress as a first-year regular.

“When he first came to us, with him being smaller player there was a concern that understanding the heaviness of this league might have been a little harder for him,” said Truitt. “But he’s obviously figuring things out that way. He’s getting more involved, he’s scored a couple of goals for us and physically he’s not getting pushed around. We knew it would be a bit of a learning curve for him but we’re nearly halfway through the season now and he’s making good strides.”

l The Rebels face the Kootenay Ice tonight at Cranbrook, then return home to host the Hurricanes Saturday at 7 p.m.

Red Deer’s final game prior to the Christmas break is Tuesday against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. The Rebels’ first game after the break is Dec. 27 against the visiting Calgary Hitmen.

Rebels

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

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada serves to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Dalton Kellett pulls out of the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Dalton Kellett is pleased his second career season in IndyCar will be different than his first, which started on an elaborate iRacing rig in his home office in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Darron Cummings
Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Head coach John Tait talks to his team as Canada takes on Japan in women's sevens rugby action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Most Read