Red Deer Rebels teammates Haydn Fleury and Conner Bleackley have the date circled on their calendar.
In fact, they had their magic markers out many months ago.
Fleury, the smooth-skating defenceman, and Bleackley, the Rebels captain and gifted sniper, will both attend this year’s NHL entry draft set for June 27-28 in Philadelphia. June 27, when the first round will be conducted, is the date they’re focusing on.
The six-foot-three, 203-pound Fleury will almost certainly be selected in the first round and could be a top-10 pick. Central Scouting has him ranked ninth, while the International Scouting Service has him at No. 12.
“For a couple of years now it’s been a goal of mine to get drafted in the first round,” said Fleury, after he and Bleackley served as coaches during the Rebels spring prospects camps last weekend at Penhold. “Now that it’s getting closer I’m getting really excited. I’ve been excited for a month or more now.”
Fleury and Bleackley were among 119 North American and European prospects who attended the recent NHL combine in Toronto.
The players underwent medicals and fitness testing and were interviewed by NHL teams. Fleury, who during the 2013-14 Western Hockey League season scored eight goals, collected 46 points and was a plus-15 for a Rebels team that missed the playoffs by losing a tie-breaker to Prince Albert, finished first in the hex agility right test and talked to 24 teams at the combine.
“The hex agility is a jumping test. Anything you can come high in, it’s always good,” he said.
“And the interviews went really well. It’s just the first couple that you’re really nervous, after that it gets a bit repetitive.”
Bleackley, who is ranked 35th by Central Scouting and 26th by the ISS, which essentially projects him as a late first-round to early second-round pick, talked to 29 teams at the combine.
“The teams didn’t want to give away too much, but I had some good interviews,” he said, when asked if any particular team or teams showed special interest. “The draft is always unpredictable and I’m ranked in the 20s and 30s as everyone knows.
“It’s always been my goal to go in the first round and I worked pretty hard towards that during the season. But the hockey is over and I can’t control where I get drafted. But obviously when I get picked it will be by a team that likes me, and that’s exciting.”
Bleackley, a six-foot, 192 pound product of High River who enjoyed a breakout 2013-14 WHL campaign with 29 goals and 68 points in 70 games, placed seventh in the standing long jump test at the combine.
“It was exhausting with all the interviews and testing, but it was a great experience,” he said. “It’s been a pretty crazy year with everything that goes along with the draft and it’s pretty exciting that it’s only three weeks away.”
l Rebels prospects centre Jeff de Wit and defenceman Josh Mahura, both of whom will almost certainly be with the WHL club next season, are among 96 players who will attend a Canadian national under-17 development camp July 29 to Aug. 4 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.
De Wit and Mahura were selected by the Rebels in the first and second rounds of the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
Tyler Steenbergen of Sylvan Lake, a first-round pick of the Swift Current Broncos a year ago, will also attend the camp.