Evan Polei was convinced he had a future with the Saskatoon Blades.
His immediate future is now with the Red Deer Rebels. The 17-year-old forward admitted Tuesday that he didn’t expect to be traded from the Blades to the Rebels last week.
“I was surprised. Saskatoon had told me a bunch of good things from their point of view, but then they called me off the ice during warm-ups and said I was traded,” he said. “So yeah, it was a big surprise.”
The Wetaskiwin product drew rave reviews during the Blades’ training camp and looked good in the preseason. But when the serious Western Hockey League games started, he was with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL.
“They told me I got into a comfort zone, that I could have been a little more aggressive out there,” said Polei, when asked what message he received from the Blades when he was reassigned to the Crusaders. “They said I didn’t play like I wanted a spot on the team, that it was more like I thought I had a spot on the team.
“But no one has a (guaranteed) spot on a team, so it was a wake-up call. I was told that one of the reasons they sent me home was to wake me up and get me going again.”
The Blades recalled Polei when they ran into injury problems and he appeared in two games with the club before being dealt to the Rebels. So far he has yet to record a point in four WHL games — including two with the Rebels — but is confident it’s just a matter of time before he shows up in a scoring summary.
The six-foot-one, 228-pound winger put up some respectable numbers with the midget AAA Edmonton Southside Athletics last winter, scoring 17 goals and adding 15 assists in 34 regular-season games.
“I’ve been getting some chances this season, the puck just hasn’t went in the net,” he said. “But I feel that if I use my size I can create room and opportunities for myself.”
Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter is hopeful that Polei will use his bulk to provide the Rebels with a physical presence both now and over the next two to three seasons. The Rebels bench boss has also made it known that he wants the big forward to get himself into better physical condition.
“Everyone can get into a bit better shape,” said Polei. “It’s tough to say, but I could use a little more conditioning and work on my footspeed. I just have to have the mindset and buy in.”
The Rebels return to action Friday against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. The Calgary Hitmen visit the Centrium Saturday.
• Two members of the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs — defenceman TJ Brown of Lacombe and forward Tyler Steenbergen of Sylvan Lake — have been named to Team Alberta for the 2013 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup set for Oct. 31-Nov. 4 at Calgary. The annual tournament features the highest-rated players in the under-16 age category representing the four western provinces . . . Former Rebels defenceman Matt Pufahl is the WHL player of the week for the period ending Oct. 13. Pufahl, who was traded from Red Deer to Saskatoon in December of 2011 and was then dealt to Everett last July, recorded six points (4g, 2a) and was a plus-5 in four games last week, helping the Silvertips to a 3-0-1-0 record . . . The Regina Pats claimed Red Deer native Mac Engel off waivers from the Prince George Cougars Tuesday. The 20-year-old netminder will fill the spot vacated by 19-year-old Teagan Sacher, who left the Pats to pursue academic interests at the University of Winnipeg. Engel has appeared in 135 WHL games with the Cougars and Spokane Chiefs and holds a career record of 52-51-4-10 to go with a 2.91 goals-against average, .894 save percentage and seven shutouts.