The Red Deer Rebels prospects camp produced a few surprises for the coaching staff, but was a bigger learning tool for the 15-year-olds selected in this year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“The guys we expected would stand out a bit this weekend did just that,” Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said following Sunday’s conclusion of the three-day camp for players 15 to 17 years of age.
“But the biggest thing is that the new guys got a good visual and a good orientation as far as what we’re all about and where they need to get to. I think for a lot of them it was a bit of an eye-opener as far as the training and conditioning level they need to be at.
“The bigger-city kids have been exposed to that a bit, but for some of the kids from smaller towns and the 15s who haven’t been through it before, it was a bit of an eye-opener to be here and see some of the older guys and how they’ve trained and the condition they’re in.”
Defenceman Matt Dumba, who’s penciled in for the 2010 season, and Matt Pufahl, who’s certainly a prime candidate for full-time employment next fall, were among the top players at the weekend camp at the Arena.
Another was 17-year-old forward Locke Muller, a listed player from Kelowna.
“I’m impressed by him, he has a lot of potential,” said Wallin.
“He has a real good frame, he’s really strong and he has a pretty good ability level for the type of player that he is. He’s a strong skater, strong on his feet. What he needs to do is get quicker with those first couple of steps and while driving to the net.
“He tends to go into a long stride right away and hasn’t developed a real burst yet. He needs to get that first-step quickness and agility in that way, but there’s certainly a lot to like there and a lot to work with. We’d love to see him come in in August and push for a spot.”
Netminder Zach Rakochy, 17, showed that he might be a candidate for a back-up position in the fall.
“He’s certainly got some things to work on,” said Wallin. “He’s a pretty athletic kid and a little bit raw, but he has junior A experience (with Melville of the SJHL) under his belt and I’d like to see him push for a spot next season. Cam Gorchynski, who will be coming in at 18, is in the same boat. They have to come in and show that they can stop the puck and work and compete at this level.”
Wallin also mentioned 16-year-old listed rearguard Danys Chartrand of Winnipeg as a candidate for next season, while the likes of 16-year-olds Lucas Grayson and forwards Joel Hamilton, Brooks Maxwell and Jackson Playfair might be a full season away.
Another Winnipeg product, defenceman Kevin Pochuk, impressed Wallin considering he was a fifth-round pick in this year’s bantam draft, as did fellow 15-year-old Tyson Maton, a six-foot-three rearguard from Spruce Grove.
The Rebels bench boss wasn’t necessarily overwhelmed with the performance of the club’s first-round pick in this year’s draft — defenceman Kayle Doetzel.
“He’s a kid from a smaller town (Rosetown, Sask.) and this was a real eye-opener for him,” said Wallin. “He’s played at a lower level, but you can see the ability that he has. He moves the puck well and definitely has some talent.
“He got his eyes opened this weekend and realizes he has to take his conditioning to another level.”
Wallin, who also liked local forward Scott Feser, 15, will now concentrate on the Canadian Hockey League import draft slated for June 29.
The Rebels coaching staff is expecting forwards John Persson and Andrej Kudrna to return for the 2010-11 campaign, but is preparing for the import draft nonetheless.