Leaving the team that drafted you and helped you develop as a major junior player can never be easy, and it was no different for Lane Pederson.
But when he learned that his new club is the host of the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, the Saskatoon native didn’t take long to recover from the trauma of being dealt.
“At first I was a little shocked, but obviously I’m super excited now,” the 18-year-old centre — acquired, along with a conditional 2017 fifth-round bantam draft pick, from the Seattle Thunderbirds Aug. 5 in return for goaltender Taz Burman — said Monday, following a Red Deer Rebels training camp morning practice session at the Centrium.
“I’m ready to get things going. I’m loving Red Deer so far. With the Memorial Cup being here next May it’s a huge opportunity not only for myself but for everyone on this roster. A ton of people (scouts) are going to be watching those games and it’s going to be an opportunity for everyone to showcase themselves and a great opportunity for Red Deer to watch some high-end hockey.”
The Rebels-Thunderbirds deal shapes up as a transaction that will work for both clubs.
“Both teams filled a need,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Seattle needed a goalie and we needed a guy who could play in our top nine forwards and be a productive guy for us.”
Pederson was a point producer in midget hockey, sniping 21 goals and collecting 41 points in 37 games as a 16-year-old with the Saskatoon Blazers during the 2013-14 season, his second year at the midget AAA level. The season previous he had 35 points (14-21) in 38 games.
He also played with Team West in the 2014 World Under 17 Challenge, recording three assists in five games.
In 2014-15, his first full season in the WHL, Pederson put up 20 points — including eight goals — in 63 games with the T-Birds, who are top-heavy with returning forwards and felt the six-foot, 190-pound centre was expendable given their need for a netminder.
“Seattle had a bit of a logjam at forward, there’s quite a few gifted forwards there,” said Pederson. “But I’m excited to get an opportunity here and make the most of it.”
So far, after six days of off-ice training and on-ice practices and scrimmages, the new Rebel likes what he sees.
“It’s a really gifted team with a lot of speed and a lot of skill. It’s going to be fun playing a quick, hard game, and I’m looking forward to getting things going.”
Pederson is not averse to scoring goals, yet he almost prefers to look for a trailer or a teammate crashing the net when entering the offensive zone.
“I’d say I’m a bit of a playmaker, I like to pass the puck,” he admitted. “I’m kind of a pass-first kind of guy. I like to use my speed and I feel like I have good vision on the ice to make plays for my teammates and myself.”
Sutter, for one, is convinced Pederson will fit in nicely with his 2015-16 squad.
“He’s going to be a real asset for us,” said the Rebels boss. “He’s got size, he can skate and he’s got skill. He competes and has a good shot and you can tell he’s an intelligent hockey player.”
The Rebels training camp, including rookie sessions featuring 38 players, resumed today and concludes with Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Black and White Game.
Red Deer’s first preseason game is Friday at St. Albert versus the Edmonton Oil Kings, who will provide the opposition in the Rebels’ regular-season opener Sept. 26 at the Centrium.
The Rebels’ other exhibition games are Sept. 11-12 vs. the Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs at Kennewick, Wash., Sept. 18 at home versus the Oil Kings and Sept. 19 at Medicine Hat against the Medicine Hat Tigers.