So far, Spencer Morse has been precisely as advertised.
The Red Deer Rebels latest acquisition has looked right at home during the club’s training camp this week and hasn’t presented any surprises to general manager/head coach Brent Sutter.
“He’s exactly what we thought he’d be,” Sutter said Wednesday, in reference to the six-foot-four, 200-pound rearguard. “He’s a big, rangy defenceman who’s going to have to bring some toughness to our lineup.
“He has to be a guy who’s able to defend well and make that first pass. We want him to be a good defending defenceman, but he has to bring that element of toughness to us.”
Acquired from Moose Jaw early last week in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2016 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Morse was a physical presence last winter — his rookie season — with the Warriors, registering 90 penalty minutes in 46 games.
The Calgary product — a second-round pick of the Warriors in the 2010 bantam draft — said Wednesday he plans to continue to play that style with the Rebels.
“I just want to play a nice steady game on the back end and be reliable,” he stated. “I’m hoping to get in some penalty-killing minutes and be really difficult to play against, really physical against the opposing team.”
Morse experienced some off-ice issues last season in Moose Jaw and was looking for a change of scenery. He’s put the problems behind him and insisted he’s willing to fully commit to his new team.
“This is a fresh start, a new beginning,” he said. “I did a lot of thinking over the summer and have grown up quite a bit. It’s not only about being a hockey player, it’s about having passion for the game and getting involved in the community. And I can take care of my education at the same time, so it’s a win-win.
“I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been presented with here. It’s been a great time so far. I’m really enjoying myself here in Red Deer.”
Morse said the chance to play closer to home is a huge plus and playing in Red Deer will be equally as gratifying.
“This is a great organization with some great fans, a great coaching staff and a dressing room filled with great guys,” he said. “I’m really enjoying my time with my billets right now and for sure the commute for my family will so much easier. They’ll be able to watch me play whenever it’s possible and it will be really good to have that support system.”
Morse scored one goal and added four assists last season and Sutter is convinced that he’s capable of becoming a more well-rounded blueliner.
“We feel he’s going to be a good, strong positional player for us,” said the Rebels boss.
“That’s why we got him. He’s a big kid and he has to bring that element to our hockey team. Yet at the same time we want to continue to develop his skills and make him a tougher player to play against, not just in the sense of physicality, but his overall game.”
• Sutter was tickled with the showing of the 15- and 16-year-old prospects in the rookie camp to the extent that he retained 13 players in that (‘97- and ‘98-born) group for Wednesday evening’s scrimmage that was essentially a preview of the Black and White game set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Centrium.
“All of younger guys have done well,” he said. “We’ve talked lots about (Adam) Musil and (Jeff) de Wit, but you can lump a whole bunch of kids in that group who have played really well. We’re really happy with our kids. They’ve all been really good.”
Besides Musil and de Wit, picked in the first round of the 2012 and 2013 bantam drafts, the other ‘97- and ‘98-born players set to suit up tonight are goaltender Taz Burman, defencemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Austin Shmoorkoff, Josh Mahura and Austin Strand, and forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk, Brayden Burke and Shane Sherban.
Forward Tanner Laderoute, 16, was reassigned Wednesday night — as was 17-year-old forward Jordan Ross — while forwards Meyer Nell (skate cut) and Mason McCarty (neck), both 16, were injured earlier in the day, didn’t play in the evening and are questionable for the Black and White game.
“These are all kids we kept tabs on all winter long who we knew were progressing. You’re always hoping that they can play on your team at some point and some of these kids are right there right now,” said Sutter.
• Team Burgundy defeated Team Grey 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday evening.
Veterans Tyson Ness, Brady Gaudet and Matt Bellerive scored for the winners in regulation time. Replying for Team Grey were Rhyse Dieno with a pair of goals — set up by projected regular-season linemates Brooks Maxwell and Lukas Sutter — and rookie defenceman Jake MacLachlan.
Burman and Grant Naherniak each gave up one goal, Rylan Toth and veteran Bolton Pouliot were each touched for a pair and veteran Patrik Bartosak pitched a shutout during his time in net.
• Standout 19-year-old defenceman Mathew Dumba arrived in Red Deer Wednesday and will play in the Black and White game before leaving this weekend for the Minnesota Wild training camp.
Dumba, the Wild’s first pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, will be given every opportunity to play with the big club this season.
• The Rebels open their preseason schedule in the Edmonton Oil Kings tournament this weekend at St. Albert. Red Deer takes on the Prince George Cougars at 11 a.m. Saturday and faces the Oil Kings at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The Rebels will meet the Calgary Hitmen Sept. 6 at Nanton and will entertain the Lethbridge Hurricanes the following night at 7:30 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena. The club will close out exhibition play with games Sept. 13 and 14 at Lacombe and Stettler versus the Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers.
Regular-season play opens Sept. 20 with the Rebels facing the Kootenay Ice at Cranbrook. The clubs clash again 24 hours later at the Centrium.