They all bring something different to the table, but the five prospects signed by the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday also boast similar strengths.
“The great thing about these kids is they can all skate and they’re all intelligent players,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, in regards to the signing of forwards Akash Bains, Chase Lowry and Tanner Sidaway and defencemen Jared Herauf, the club’s first pick — 16th overall — in this year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft, and Ethan Sakowich, a second-round pick in 2014.
“They are young players who are top prospects for us. These past two drafts have been strong for us in terms of adding skill and depth.”
Bains was taken in the ninth round of the 2014 draft and last season the Delta, B.C., native scored six goals and collected 20 points in 28 games with the White prep team at the Okanagan Hockey Academy. The six-foot, 181-pound forward added a goal and an assist in three playoff outings.
“He just attended our second prospects camp (in June) and he and Sakowich looked really good,” said Sutter.
Sakowich, a six-foot-two, 180-pound native of Athabasca, recorded five assists in 27 games with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers last season.
“He’s a big, stay-at-home guy who skates and moves the puck well,” said Sutter.
Meanwhile, Herauf put up 23 points (6g,17a) in 33 games with the major bantam Sherwood Park Flyers and picked up three assists in one game with the minor midget Squires, and Lowry — drafted in the third round this year, 50th overall — sniped 16 goals and recorded 36 points in 21 games with the major bantam Edmonton Southside Athletics.
Neither Herauf nor Lowry are eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season, but Bains, Sakowich and Sidaway, whom the team listed last year, will be in the hunt for full-time work this fall, with Bains likely having the best shot at sticking around.
There is already an open spot up front due to the fact that Austin Adamson will be lost to the club for three to five months after undergoing hip surgery.
“Bains is among a few kids who have to push to be on our team this season, to be among our 12th to 14th forwards,” said Sutter. “Right now we know, in all likelihood, who our top 11 are going to be, now we need some of our 17-year-old prospects like Zac Gladu and Tyler Kirkup to step up, along with Shane Sherban (18) and Bains.”
Sidaway, who might still be a year away from stepping into the Red Deer lineup, excelled at last year’s spring prospects camp, then returned to Victoria and scored nine goals and collected 12 points in 40 games with the bantam AAA South Island Royals.
“He had a tough year with injuries but he came to the prospects camp this year with some extra size,” said Sutter. “He’s a big, strong kid who skates really well and has a great shot. He’s just a real competitive two-way guy.”
With his first- and third-round 2015 bantam picks under contract, Sutter is hopeful that he will sign the club’s second and fourth picks — forwards Eli Zummack and Brendan Budy — prior to training camp next month.
l The Rebels also announced that first two ‘local pillar partners’ have signed on for the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup set for next May at the Centrium.
The presenting sponsor of the volunteer program will be NOVA Chemicals, while Collins Barrow Chartered Accountants have title sponsorship to the Memorial Cup golf tournament and the Hockey Hall of Fame experience.