The lure of the 2016 Memorial Cup and the ensuing NHL entry draft was enough to draw forward Taden Rattie to the Red Deer Rebels while bidding adieu to his NCAA athletic scholarship.
The Airdrie native, who committed to Western Michigan while a member of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Whitecourt Wolverines last season, joined the Rebels Tuesday and will make his Western Hockey League debut tonight against the Kootenay Ice at Cranbrook.
“We’ve been talking since Christmas Eve so this was a little Christmas present, I guess,” said Rattie, who was in conversation with Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter and assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter.
Rattie’s WHL rights were acquired from the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. He is the younger brother of former Portland star forward and current St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie.
The younger Rattie was passed over in the 2013 bantam draft and was then listed by the ‘Hawks.
“I went to Portland’s camp once and didn’t go back again. I went to Whitecourt instead and got my college commitment,” he said.
Rattie, who was dealt from Whitecourt to the Calgary Mustangs in November, was basically U.S. college bound in the next year or two until the Rebels traded for his rights. The fact that in October he was listed as a ‘C’ prospect — a projected fourth- to sixth-round pick — by Central Scouting for next year’s NHL draft was a big factor in his decision.
“My brother played in Portland for four years and the WHL is a great league,” he said. “Nothing against the NCAA, but this is a big jump for my career.
“This is a great organization and I think they can help me, for sure. There’s a lot of good people here.”
The 17-year-old was also swayed by the fact the Rebels will host the Memorial Cup tournament in May.
“That’s going to be exciting, for sure, and it was probably a big part of my decision,” he said.
While Ty Rattie was an offensive force during his time in the WHL, Taden, at six-foot-four and 190 pounds, is a more in-your-face, physical type of player.
“I’m a little bigger than my brother so I have to use my size out there,” he noted. “I have to use my body and finish my checks … forecheck hard and do what I can.”
Rattie contributed seven goals and 12 points in 53 games with Whitecourt last season and had a goal and four assists in 14 contests this fall before being dealt to the Mustangs. In 34 games with the Calgary squad, he recorded nine goals and 19 points.
The stat that jumps off the page is the penalty minutes he has accrued over 87 career AJHL games — 297 minutes.
“I don’t want to hurt the team in any way, but I’m a physical player and I just do what I can to win,” he said.
The big winger is no stranger to adversity. While the Wolverines are one of the AJHL’s better teams, the Mustangs are clearly the worst.
“I was there (in Calgary) for a 29-game losing streak and it was tough,” he said. “But you just have to push through and it definitely builds character.”
Brent Sutter is confident that Rattie can help his club. He compared his newest player to a certain 19-year-old Rebels forward who plays a heavy game.
“Shaun, I and (senior vice-president) Merrick (Sutter) looked at the situation with Evan Polei when he was 17,” said the Rebels boss. “This kid is further ahead with his skating and certain things than Evan was at 17.
“He skates really well for a big guy and he’s an up-and-down guy who finishes all of his checks. He goes to the net and a lot of his goals are scored from in close.”
As Sutter noted, pro scouts are intrigued by Rattie’s potential.
“There are NHL teams interested in him and they want to see him develop,” he said. “There’s a really good upside with his kid.”
The Rebels will return home following tonight’s contest to prepare for Saturday’s visit by the Brandon Wheat Kings.