With one eye on the future, Red Deer Rebels owner/president/general manager Brent Sutter completed a Western Hockey League deal on Monday, landing 16-year-old defenceman and Innisfail native Kaleb Denham.
“I like him a lot. He’s a big, strong defenceman who’s just going to get better,” said Sutter, who acquired the six-foot-one, 155-pound Denham from the Tri-City Americans for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft and a conditional fourth-round selection in 2015.
Tri-City will get the conditional pick if Denham is with the Rebels next season.
Sutter certainly likes Denham’s chances of playing in the WHL in the 2013-14 campaign and in fact has already signed him to a standard player’s educational contract.
“He skates well for a big player and he’s also very poised,” said the Rebels boss. “He makes the simple plays. His positional play is good.”
Denham, selected by the Americans in the sixth round of the 2011 bantam draft, is in his first season with the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Rebels. Sutter watched the Optimist Rebels blank the Calgary Royals 3-0 on Sunday at the Arena and was suitably impressed with the rookie rearguard.
“Our scouts are really high on him,” said Sutter. “Randy (Peterson, director of scouting/player development) and Shaun (senior scout Sutter) have seen him play a lot and are really high on him. And he’s a local boy who comes from a great family, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Denham will stay with the midget AAA Rebels this season but will be summoned to the big club for a handful of games.
“We’re excited about him being a part of our organization,” said Sutter. “He’ll continue to play with the triple A midgets this year because we think it’s where he needs to play to develop and yet we’ll get him into a (WHL) game here and there so hopefully he’ll be ready to go next year.”
Sutter said Denham will be a good fit with his club for more than one reason.
“Kaleb is very excited about playing here. He can play major junior at home,” said Sutter. “This trade fits in well with what I’m trying to do here. I want to add as many top young prospects as I can.
“When you have a guy like (Haydn) Fleury on your back end . . . he (Denham) should fit in well with him. This is a good acquisition for us.”
l The Rebels open a six-game trip through the East Division tonight against the Prince Albert Raiders. Red Deer plays in Saskatoon on Wednesday and Regina on Friday before heading to Brandon for a Saturday contest. The Rebels will conclude the trip with games at Moose Jaw on Sunday and Swift Current two days later.