The skill was evident, and yet it was the versatility of the 34-player group that most impressed GM/head coach Brent Sutter during the Red Deer Rebels spring prospects camp.
“It was a really good camp, really encouraging in the sense of the type of players we have on our list,” said Sutter, following Sunday’s final session of the three-day camp at the Penhold Regional Multiplex. “We have a bit of everything, which is good.”
As expected, the ‘96-born players — for the most part — were the most noticeable during the weekend.
“They’re the oldest kids in the group and obviously we’re hoping that some of them can push to play on our team next season,” said Sutter.
One such player is forward Cole Chorney, who has yet to sign a standard WHL contract.
“He hasn’t committed to a contract. He wants to see how the fall camp goes,” said Sutter.
Regardless, the Rebels boss can pin his immediate hopes — as in the 2013-14 season — on the likes of defencemen Kaleb Denham and Jake MacLachlan and forwards Vukie Mpofu, Grayson Pawlenchuk, Meyer Nell and Adam Musil. All but Musil, hobbled by a minor leg injury he suffered last week, were on the ice during the prospects camp, and they all showed well.
“Denham is a good, steady guy and MacLachlan played against 20-year-olds last year (with Fernie of the junior B KIJHL). Those are two kids we are hoping and expecting to play on our team in the fall,” said Sutter.
“Along with the four ‘96 forwards . . . you have to think they all have a good chance of pushing to make our team.
“They you have (Earl) Webb and (Mathieu) Lapointe, two big 17-year-old wingers who have to push, and a little player like (‘97-born forward) Brayden Burke, who’s a tremendously talented player. His size is a concern, but he still has to come to camp in the fall with the mindset of making our team.” Forward Jeff de Wit and defenceman Josh Mahura, the Rebels’ first two picks in this year’s WHL bantam draft, also impressed Sutter.
“Those two are certainly very elite players and they’re going to be playing here in the near future,” said Sutter.
“As far as continuing to name names, I like to look at the age groups and how the talent is set up. But talent is an over-rated word. It’s not just the talent, it’s what you bring with talent as far as character, heart, compete level and passion.
“That’s what you get most of your talent out of. I just liked how hard these kids worked during the camp. They have good puck skills but they’re also highly competitive. That’s what we focused on in this most recent (bantam) draft. We really went hard after those types of players.”
Among the younger listed players attending the prospects camp, Sutter liked defencemen Wyatt Kalynuk of Virden, Man., and Austin Shmoorkoff of Edmonton.
“That’s encouraging. They both have ‘97 birthdates and they fit in really well with that group,” said Sutter.
Taz Burman might have been the best of the four goaltenders attending the prospects camp and the ‘97-born Vancouver native is already considered to be the Rebels’ stopper of the future.
The other netminders in camp were Grant Naherniak and Rylan Toth, both of whom have ‘96 birthdates, and 19-year-old Tanner Kovacs, whose age dictates that his future with the club is likely limited to one season, if at all.