Intent on building a team with size and skill, Red Deer Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter was all smiles as the club’s rookie camp concluded Monday afternoon at the Centrium.
“We have more size among our prospects this year, no question,” said Sutter. “And these guys, for the most part, can really skate. It’s been a real good camp. There’s a little bit of everything out there and there’s also a lot of bite in a lot of those kids.
“These are things we focused on during the last two bantam drafts.”
Several of the players selected in the 2012 draft stood out during rookie camp, particularly first-round pick and centre Adam Musil, who at six-foot-one and 199 pounds was a man among boys.
“Our 16-year-old group is obviously an elite age group,” said Sutter, referring also to the likes of defencemen Austin Strand, Wyatt Kalynuk and Austin Shmoorkoff, forwards Brayden Burke, Tanner Laderoute, Mason McCarty and Meyer Nell, and netminder Taz Burman, all of whom were retained to compete in main camp today.
“That’s a pretty impressive group, and really, at the end of the day they could all push to play here this year. You know you can’t keep all of them, but it’s encouraging that we’ll be able to look forward to these kids coming in at 17 a year from now.
“What’s neat about it is you see how they’ve changed from being 15 to 16, and you learn something from that. Sometimes you think there’s something better out there, but at the end of the day there isn’t, so you have to more patient with the group you have and the players on your list. At the same time, our scouts’ job is to always be improving our list.”
Musil, a lock to earn regular employment this season after joining the Rebels full time last spring, was dominant during rookie camp, but Sutter was equally impressed with local product Jeff de Wit, a six-foot-two, 174-pound centre who was the club’s first-round bantam pick this year.
“Musil was exactly what we thought he’d be in this camp. He certainly stood out,” said the Rebels boss.
“But a kid like Jeff de Wit probably stood out more at this camp than Musil did last year as a 15-year-old. So that’s encouraging — knowing that our first-round pick this year has a chance to be that calibre of a player for us.
“Guys like (‘98-born defenceman) Josh Mahura and the Kalynuk boy . . . they’re all good players and they’re all going to be able to play in the league. It will sort itself out over time.”
Main camp opened late Monday afternoon with 55 players — including 18 who were promoted from the rookie camp — in gear.
“We’ll keep it at that number through Tuesday and then cut down to that 40 to 42 number for Wednesday,” said Sutter.
The players kept beyond Tuesday will practise during the morning — with sessions slated for 9, 10:15 and 11 a.m. — and will then play an intrasquad game at 5 p.m., a preview of Thursday’s Black and White game set for 7 p.m.
Today, the main camp players will participate in 90-minute scrimmages starting at 9 a.m., 1:30 and 6 p.m.
The remainder of the rookie-camp group promoted to main camp consists of defencemen Mahura, Keenan Lugt, Brett Hamer, Cale Chalifoux and Max Salpeter, forwards Caleb Riess, Josh Logel, Bryson Traptow, Reid Bosse, Shane Sherban, Reese Johnson and Tyler Kirkup, and netminder Colby Entz.
Forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk, who played four games with the Rebels last season, Cody Illerbrun and Jayze Schwartz were all injured during rookie camp.