Rebels get déjà vu with first pick

If Jacob Herauf develops into the type of former Red Deer Rebels defenceman Shaun Sutter compares him to, the club hit a home run in Thursday’s WHL bantam draft in Calgary. Herauf, whom the Rebels nabbed with their first-round pick — 16th overall — plays a game comparable to a certain Minnesota Wild rookie rearguard, the Red Deer assistant GM/director of player personnel said following the draft.

If Jacob Herauf develops into the type of former Red Deer Rebels defenceman Shaun Sutter compares him to, the club hit a home run in Thursday’s WHL bantam draft in Calgary.

Herauf, whom the Rebels nabbed with their first-round pick — 16th overall — plays a game comparable to a certain Minnesota Wild rookie rearguard, the Red Deer assistant GM/director of player personnel said following the draft.

“He’s a guy who skates well, moves the puck well and plays a real assertive, energetic game. In some ways he’s similar to Mathew Dumba in that he plays on his toes and can make the big open-ice hits or run people over,” said Sutter. “He has that kind of physicality to his game.”

Herauf played for the major bantam Sherwood Park Flyers during the 2014-15 season, scoring six goals, collecting 23 points and racking up 22 points in penalties in 33 games. The Flyers were coached by Mike Pawlenchuk, the father of Rebels forward Grayson.

The five-foot-10, 170-pound blueliner also suited up for one game with the minor midget AAA Sherwood Park Squires and collected three assists.

One scouting service had Herauf ranked as a fourth-rounder and another had him ranked outside of the top 30. Sutter, who suggested earlier this week the Rebels might go somewhat ‘off the board’ with their first pick, said Herauf’s existing skills as well as his upside made him an easy choice.

“There was a group of guys in the late first and early second round who were similar. We just really liked the heaviness to his game and his skating,” said the Rebels chief talent evaluator. “We think he’s going to grow and be a big kid. We just think there’s a lot there and we didn’t want to pass on him.”

Herauf, a Lethbridge native who two years ago played bantam hockey in Montreal before his family moved back to Alberta, expressed his delight with being selected by the Rebels.

“I’m excited, very happy,” he said from Toronto, where he’s competing in a tournament. The soon-to-be 15-year-old (May 16) described himself as a responsible, two-way rearguard.

“I see myself as a defenceman who makes sure everything is in the defensive zone before jumping up into the play,” he said. “I like to get into the rush and carry the puck. I don’t shy away from skating with the puck.”

Meanwhile, Shaun Sutter, Rebels GM/head coach, Brent Sutter and director of scouting and player development Randy Peterson decided to select five-foot-nine, 160-pound centre Eli Zummack of Kelowna with the team’s second pick, 36th overall. Zummack recorded 21 points (9g,12a) in 18 games with the Pursuit of Excellence Academy bantam prep team — along with two goals and four points in four playoff outings — and six points (2-4) in four games with the POE elite 15s squad.

The Rebels took another centre, Chase Lowry of Edmonton, with their third pick, 50th overall. The five-foot-10, 172-pound forward had 36 points, including 16 goals, in 21 games with the Edmonton Southside Lions.

“Eli is a skilled kid who can skate and make plays,” said Shaun Sutter. “He thinks the game real well and he’s a real dedicated and focused kid off the ice. He’s a guy we obviously like. He can play the half wall on the power play and he makes the other players around him better.”

As for Lowry . . .

“Chase is a guy who can score and make plays,” said Sutter. “He’s has some size to him and he’s from the Edmonton Southside Athletic Association, so he’ll stay in a good program next year.

“He was injured this year so I think he slipped a bit (in the draft) because of that. He’s just a good, all-around player who plays a 200-foot game.”

The Rebels snared another slick forward, Brendan Budy of Langley, B.C., with their fourth-round selection — 69th overall — and after taking defenceman Jacob Thomson of Brandon in the sixth round, scooped promising American blueliner Jace Foskey of Southlake, Tex., in the seventh round.

Foskey, selected 148th overall and already highly-regarded by various hockey people on both sides of the border, comes highly-recommended by Luke Reid, a Rebels scout based in Dallas.

“We think Jace is the best defenceman in the western United States,” said Shaun Sutter. “ Other teams might have been wary of (drafting) him based on his commitment level, but we have a lot of trust in Luke because of his relationship with Jace.

“He’s a player we can see wearing our jersey one day.”

Brent Sutter, in fact, likes his team’s chances of getting Foskey into a Rebels’ uniform.

“He’s pretty excited. I also talked to his parents and they’re very excited,” said Sutter. “We had him ranked as one of the top two defencemen in the U.S., so we’re pretty excited about getting him. Our scout in Dallas coached him and he knows the family really well.”

The six-foot-one, 168-pound Foskey suited up with the Dallas U16 team in 2014-15.

“I’m going to go down and visit with him,” said Sutter.

“It’s the same situation as with the (Austin) Pratt and (Grant) Mismash families from Minnesota,” added the Rebels bench boss, in reference to a pair of 2014 bantam draft picks. “He’s a top-end kid and we’re excited about him hopefully having the opportunity to play in Red Deer. We’ll see how it goes.”

In Zummack, Lowry and Budy, Shaun Sutter is confident the team has three top-six forwards for the coming years.

Budy, who checks in at five-foot-eight and 155 pounds and with a solid skill set, likely would have gone higher in the draft if not for his lack of size and the fact that his father, Tim, decided to follow the U.S. college route before turning pro.

“That might have been a factor in him slipping a bit,” said Shaun Sutter. “In terms of skill, he’s a guy who has a very good chance to be a top-six forward by the time he’s 17.

“I think he’s a guy who could be a (Kootenay Ice forward) Luke Philp type of player. He plays with character, he can score and make plays. He’s another guy who can play the half wall on the power play.”

Budy recorded 11 goals and 23 points in 18 games at the Delta Hockey Academy. He also rung up 34 minutes in penalties.

“He’s small in stature but he’s going to be somewhere between a Philp and a Brandon Magee type player,” said Sutter, also referencing the Victoria Royals graduating player, a buzzsaw forward with offensive pop.

Overall, Sutter likes the crop of prospects the Rebels plucked Thursday.

“Up front, we got some real good players with vision and skill and we drafted a nice mix of players on the back end,” he said.

All of Red Deer’s selections are expected to attend the team’s spring prospects camp June 5-7 at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.

The Rebels’ other 2015 bantam draft picks (with 2014-15 team, size, statistics and comments from Shaun Sutter):

Sixth round (124th): D Jacob Thomson, Brandon Wheat Kings, six-foot-one, 176 lbs; stats unavailable.

“He’s a big, stay-at-home defenceman who moves pretty well. He just plays a real simple, steady game.”

Eighth round (170th): D Spencer McHardy, Calgary Edge School, five-foot-10, 173; 22GP, 1-6-7.

“He’s a D-man who moves the puck real well. He’s kind of a mid-size guy but he’s a smart, steady player.”

Ninth round (192nd): Brandon Cutler, Spruce Grove Saints, five-foot-10, 165; 28-13-25-38.

“He skates well and has a good frame. He thinks the game well and has good potential.”

10th round (214th): Jake Mulder, Abbotsford AAA, six-foot, 160; 47-44-30-74.

“He put up some real good numbers this season. He’s a tall, lanky guy who has some upside because he has some skill and edge to his game.”

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