Colorado Avalanche center Conner Bleackley celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday

Colorado Avalanche center Conner Bleackley celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday

Rebels welcome Bleackley back

Conner Bleackley arrived back in Red Deer this week feeling good about himself and his pro hockey future. That wasn’t the case one year ago when the Red Deer Rebels star forward and captain was returned to the WHL squad by the Colorado Avalanche earlier than expected, the reason being that Avs head coach Patrick Roy had issues with Bleackley’s conditioning.

Conner Bleackley arrived back in Red Deer this week feeling good about himself and his pro hockey future.

That wasn’t the case one year ago when the Red Deer Rebels star forward and captain was returned to the WHL squad by the Colorado Avalanche earlier than expected, the reason being that Avs head coach Patrick Roy had issues with Bleackley’s conditioning.

This year, the 2014 NHL entry draft first-round selection of the Avs was not only promoted from rookie to main camp, he appeared in a trio of preseason games and even scored his first NHL goal Sept. 22 in a 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

“To get three exhibition games was huge for me,” Bleackley said Thursday. “Just knowing that I can play at that level was a confidence boost. I think I did the most I could with the ice time I got.”

Bleackley looks more lean and muscled this year than last, which no doubt left a positive impression with Roy.

“Every year I’m just trying to add muscle and keep the body fat down,” said the six-foot-one, 196-pound centre. “It’s especially important for the next level where the guys are a lot bigger and stronger.”

Instead of being reassigned to the Rebels on a negative note as was the case last year, Bleackley came back Wednesday in an upbeat frame of mind.

“It was good. I got some positive feedback and playing in three exhibition games is not something most 19-year-olds do,” he said. “But at the same time it just leaves me hungry for more. I think each year and each season you have to strive to be better and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

“Being an older guy in this league I’m excited for tomorrow night and this season.”

Bleackley, who will make his 2015-16 Rebels debut tonight against the visiting Swift Current Broncos, won’t soon forget his first NHL goal.

“I was pretty fortunate,” he said. “About 10 seconds into my first shift of the game I got a nice chip pass along the wall. I beat the D-man wide with speed, took the puck to the net and kind of got lucky on the goal.

“As I was shooting their player kind of tipped it and (the puck) went up and over (Ducks’ goalie John) Gibson’s shoulder. It felt real nice. Obviously, any time you get a first goal, whether it’s in exhibition or not, it’s pretty cool. As soon as I scored I could feel the extra confidence which I carried through the rest of the camp.”

Bleackley’s third and final preseason contest was Tuesday at Calgary, where the Avalanche dropped a 2-0 decision to the Flames. Being from High River, it was akin to playing in his hometown.

“I was fortunate to be able to be in an Avalanche sweater in Calgary, it was something you dream of growing up and I think it was even more special for my family,” said Bleackley. “I think my dad bought 16 tickets. That was a special night for me and something that I’ll remember. Hopefully I can be there a lot more.”

Bleackley has yet to secure an NHL contract but realizes that his play this season will determine if the Avs come calling with paper and pen.

“I take care of my on-ice and off-ice business and the (contract) stuff just kind of takes care of itself,” he said. “We have a real good team here and I’m impressed with what they’ve done already (2-0 to start the season). I’m just excited to come be a part of the team and only add to it.”

• On Thursday,Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter reassigned forward Akash Bains and defenceman Ethan Sakowich, both 16, leaving the club with 23 players.

Bains will join the Delta Hockey Academy midget prep team, which plays in the Canadian Sport School League, while Sakowich will rejoin the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers of the Alberta Midget League.

Rebels

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home in Vancouver to attend a court hearing, Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Trump comments on trade negotiations with China take centre stage in Meng case

Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport more than two years ago

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

opinion
Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Dallas Stars' Mark Pysyk (13) and Tampa Bay Lightning's Ondrej Palat (18) compete for control of a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) grabs a loose puck as Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) battle for the rebound during first-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Most Read