Rebels looking for impact player at import draft

The Red Deer Rebels released Mario Grman today, but the Slovak defenceman could still return to the team. Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter cut ties with Grman just ahead of Tuesday’s Canadian Hockey League draft, in which Sutter is hoping to land an impact forward to fill the club’s quota of two import players. The Rebels boss acquired 19-year-old forward Ivan Nikolishin from the Everett Silvertips in early May.

The Red Deer Rebels released Mario Grman today, but the Slovak defenceman could still return to the team.

Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter cut ties with Grman just ahead of Tuesday’s Canadian Hockey League draft, in which Sutter is hoping to land an impact forward to fill the club’s quota of two import players. The Rebels boss acquired 19-year-old forward Ivan Nikolishin from the Everett Silvertips in early May.

“I didn’t want to do anything with Mario until I had some feel as to where we’re at for the draft,” Sutter said Sunday. “The reality of it is, if we get to the point where any of the players we want aren’t there, we can re-pick him. We can bring him back.”

The Rebels pick 48th overall in the draft and Sutter is hoping that an ‘A-list’ player will still be available at that point. With Red Deer hosting the Memorial Cup tournament next year, the team should have a decent chance of landing a top-six forward.

“That’s what we’re working on,” said Sutter, who is well aware that the import draft is somewhat of a crapshoot.

“I’ve said this from the get-to: Unless you can get a player who can play in your top six forwards, why are you drafting him?” Sutter continued.

The Rebels boss pointed to last year’s draft as an example of how much WHL general managers have to rely on agents while identifying prospective import players. Grman was actually the Rebels’ second-round pick, with first-round selection — defenceman Hugo Jansons — failing to make an early favourable impression and being released in November after recovering from an injury.

“We were told by his (Jansons’) agent, Igor Larionov, that he (Jansons) could come in and play in our top four,” said Sutter.

“As it turns out, he comes in and can’t even play on our hockey team. That kind of stuff goes on, so you have to be really careful.

“Once all the A-list players are gone, you’re down to the B list and you’re just counting on agents at that point.”

That being said . . .

“We’re optimistic that we’ll get a good player, it’s important for the team,” said Sutter. “We don’t know what the age of the player will be. There’s a lot of 18-year-olds who are better than 19-year-olds, and some 17-year-olds are better than the 18- and 19-year-olds. We’re just trying to get a guy who can come in and play in our top six.”

l The Rebels have hired Erik Lodge as their skills development coach.

Lodge, who teaches and runs the hockey academy at Notre Dame High School, replaces Clayton Beddoes, who will coach in Italy next season.

Beddoes was hired to fill the new skills development post last year and Sutter was impressed with his work. As a result, he felt it was vital to fill the position upon Beddoes’ exit.

“After going through it with the coaching staff and sitting down with Erik, it just seemed that he is a real good fit,” said Sutter.

“Clayton worked with the players a lot, including during and after practice. It was something new. We thought we’d give it a try for a year and I really liked it. I thought it really helped the kids and the kids enjoyed it. It was something different.”

The Rebels will make an official announcement this week concerning Lodge’s hiring.

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