Once the Winnipeg Wild gave their OK, Kevin Pochuk was a member of the Red Deer Rebels for another week.
Pochuk was aboard the Rebels bus and en route to Prince George Monday night, his inclusion on the Red Deer roster for at least the next four games getting the thumbs up from the Wild, his midget AAA club.
“They said it was fine for me to stay for another week,” Pochuk said Monday, just prior to the Rebels’ departure for a four-game WHL swing through the B.C. Division.
The 16-year-old rearguard was summoned from Winnipeg late last week and appeared in games Friday at Cranbrook and Saturday against visiting Moose Jaw — his third and fourth contests with the Rebels this season.
With only four defencemen available for the road-trip opener Wednesday at Prince George, Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin asked Pochuk’s midget squad if he could stay with the big club through the B.C. jaunt. It’s not like the Wild is in dire need of Pochuk’s services, having already clinched top spot and a first-round playoff bye in the Manitoba AAA loop with a 41-2-1 record. The Winnipeg native was only too happy to stay with the Rebels.
“Spending extra time here will help me get closer to everyone and also more comfortable as I go along,” said the six-foot, 195-blueliner, a fifth-round pick of the Rebels in the 2010 WHL bantam draft. “Every game I play I get even more comfortable so hopefully I’ll do better this week than I have the last couple of games.”
While he’s enjoying an excellent season in the midget ranks, Pochuk is just starting to learn the characteristics of the major junior game.
“The speed at this level is certainly noticeable, but structure is the big thing,” he said. “There’s way more structure here than in triple A. You can’t try those cross-ice passes, it’s a lot of up the boards and off the glass if you have nothing else. I can’t do what I do back home, so it’s a big adjustment that way.”
What he’s done “back home” is garner 64 points — including 19 goals — in 42 games with the Wild. The highest-scoring defenceman in the MMAAAHL and the league’s sixth-highest scorer overall has also racked up 70 minutes in penalties.
“I just kind of kicked it in offensively this season,” said Pochuk “I worked out a lot last summer and it shows. So I’m going to work out twice as hard this summer and see what happens.”
A virtual lock in regards to earning full-time employment with the Rebels next season, Pochuk is currently getting plenty of ice time as an emergency fill-in and the Red Deer coaching staff sees plenty of potential in the talented blueliner.
“As he gets more acclimated to the pace he’ll become more comfortable and productive for us,” said assistant coach Bryce Thoma. “We see him as a good, solid, puck-moving defenceman, a guy who should be able to play on our power play.
“He’s proven that in midget where he’s put up a lot of points on a very good team. We’ve given him some power-play time since he’s been here and he’ll get more power-play time on the road trip.”
Of the eight players currently on the Red Deer injury list, only defenceman Devan Fafard is expected to play on the trip.
“He skated today and we’re optimistic he might be available for Friday’s game (at Kamloops),” said Thoma.
The Rebels will be in Kelowna Saturday to face the Rockets and will take on the Vancouver Giants Sunday before returning home.
Red Deer’s next home game is March 2 versus the Swift Current Broncos.