If Thursday’s Black and White game at the Centrium was any indication, the Red Deer Rebels should have some decent scoring depth during the upcoming Western Hockey League season.
While the Team Black line of Brooks Maxwell and wingers Lukas Sutter and Rhyse Dieno — the Rebels’ projected No. 1 forward unit for the 2013-14 campaign — was more than impressive, the White trio of Conner Bleackley, Wyatt Johnson and Tyson Ness was even better.
“Our line generated lots of scoring chances. All three of us played well and it was really good playing with those two,” said Johnson, who tallied twice and added an assist in a 6-5 Team White shootout victory before roughly 2,000 fans.
Johnson, an 18-year-old Saskatoon native, notched 10 goals and added 10 assists in 56 games during his rookie season with the Rebels and is confident he’ll increase those totals in his second year with the club.
“I’m a year older so I’m looking to play a bigger role offensively, but I think everyone wants to step up even more this season and we should have a good team because of that,” he said.
“We have a lot of good forwards, a lot of returnees, and our young guys coming in are really good players too, so I’m looking forward to the year.”
Bleackley also scored twice during regulation time and notched the eventual shootout with a laser that cleanly beat netminder Patrik Bartosak. Bleackley also contributed a pair of assists, while Ness scored once and added two helpers and Dominik Volek chipped in with an assist.
Scoring for Team Black were Maxwell, who forced a scoreless five-minute overtime with a late marker and also had an assist, Haydn Fleury, Christian Stockl, Dieno and newcomer Grayson Pawlenchuk. Sutter and Cory Millete each picked up two assists, while Stockl, Fleury, Kayle Doetzel and newcomers Cole Chorney and Ian Parker each had one.
“I saw a lot of good things out there,” said Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter. “As the camp goes on it sorts itself out and the players start to separate themselves.”
Sutter was impressed with virtually all of the veteran players and also saw plenty of potential in his crop of rookies, including forwards Jeff de Wit and Shane Sherban and defenceman Josh Mahura, the three 1998-born players in the game. De Wit and Mahura were picked in the first and second rounds of this year’s bantam draft and Sherban, a camp invite from Lanigan, Sask., was listed this week.
“You look at those three and they’re all good players,” said Sutter. “There’s a reason why you take those two kids (de Wit and Mahura) as high as we did in the bantam draft. They’re going to be very good players in this program for a few years and we’re looking forward to having them both here a year from now.
“And Sherban, here’s a kid whose goal was to come here and work himself onto our list and he’s certainly done that. His next goal is to hopefully play here at some point. He’s a big kid too, so we’re excited about that.”
Sutter reduced the team roster to 38 players following the game, reassigning Sherban, who is hoping to play midget AAA hockey in Tisdale, Sask., 17-year-old forwards Parker — expected to play midget AAA in Saskatoon — Lynnden Pastachak of Bienfait, Sask., and Duncan Campbell of Brandon, and 16-year-old defenceman Wyatt Kalynuk of Virden, Man.
“We’ll carry these (remaining) guys through a couple of exhibition games this weekend and then get down closer to where we want to be,” said the Rebels boss.
“It’s been a good week. It’s been a week where there’s been some decisions made and there will be some tougher ones moving forward. But that’s what we wanted, that’s what we discussed with everyone at the start of camp. We wanted them to make it hard on us (coaches) to make decisions and they have. That’s a good thing.”
• Team Black goaltenders Bartosak and Bolton Pouliot each allowed two goals during regulation time, while Grant Naherniak surrendered one. At the other end, Rylan Toth was beaten three times and Taz Burman gave up a pair of goals.
• Five players will attend training camps this year, with Mathew Dumba headed to the Minnesota Wild camp this weekend and Bartosak (Los Angeles Kings), Dieno (Minnesota), Kayle Doetzel (Nashville Predators) and Sutter (Winnipeg Jets) leaving next week.
• The Rebels open their preseason schedule with games Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. — versus the Prince George Cougars and Edmonton Oil Kings — as part of the Oil Kings tournament at St. Albert.