Reese Johnson was hoping, in vain, that his team would be competing in the upcoming Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
However, being summoned to the Red Deer Rebels for the remainder of the season is a nifty consolation prize.
“It’s nice to be able to come up and try and contribute the best that I can until the end of the season,” the Saskatoon Blazers assistant captain and top scorer in 2014-15 said Monday, following a Rebels practice session at the Kinex.
The Blazers failed to qualify for post-season play, finishing in 10th place in the 12-team league with a 14-29-0-1 record. Johnson, a Saskatoon native and the younger brother of Rebels forward Wyatt Johnson, did his part in trying to keep the team competitive, notching 23 goals and collecting 38 points in 43 games.
“It was a pretty good season for me. Our team had a tougher year, but there were some good points,” he said.
“We did a lot of good things, unfortunately it ended sooner that we wanted it to.”
With Conner Bleackley and Evan Polei still out with injuries and Brooks Maxwell listed as day-to-day with a lower-body ailment, the Rebels’ declining depth at forward is at the point that Johnson, 16, might be in the lineup as early as Wednesday when the club takes on the Oil Kings in Edmonton.
“You never know, we’ll just see how it goes,” said GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “If certain individuals aren’t playing to their potential, we have a guy who can go in.
“Reese had a really good year, we’re really happy with his development and how he played. He didn’t look out of place at all during practice today.”
Johnson insisted he felt right at home skating with his new teammates.
“I felt really good. The boys were moving the puck well and it was a high-paced practice,” he said.
Johnson, who was listed by the Rebels last year and attended training camp in August before suiting up for two WHL exhibition games, racked up 68 minutes in penalties this season. In other words, he doesn’t shy away from the tough areas or play a soft game.
“I like to get a little greasy when I can . . . get the tempo going, pick up the pace and get the boys going,” said the five-foot-11, 165-pound winger who will celebrate his 17th birthday on July 10. “I like to lay out a few hits and I try and put the puck in the net when I can.”
His brother plays nearly an identical style.
“I like to think that we play a similar hard-working game,” said the younger Johnson. “He (Wyatt) is having a really good year and hopefully he keeps it up.”
Sutter said the brothers are very much alike in relation to their work habits and on-ice disposition.
“Reese plays a heart and soul type of game. With both brothers, their character shows through,” said the Rebels boss.
Johnson admitted that he hasn’t talked to Sutter at length about the possibility of getting into the Rebels lineup sooner than later.
“He hasn’t said much about playing, he just told me to practise how I play and try and get better every day that I’m here,” said the newest Rebel.
Following Wednesday’s outing in the provincial capital, Red Deer will welcome the Prince Albert Raiders and Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Enmax Centrium for games Friday and Saturday.