Red Deer Rebels Kai Uchacz is having a season to remember.
And through the first 20 games of the season, you’d be hard-pressed to find many more players in the Western Hockey League (WHL) who have been as efficient on the offensive end.
Uchacz is currently second in the league with 16 goals behind Regina Pats star Connor Bedard and leads Red Deer with 24 points – averaging over a point per game.
The 19-year-old forward from De Winton, Alta. said the puck has found a way onto his stick this year and he has capitalized in a big way.
“Coming into the year, I wanted to build off last year from my injury but things are going well right now so I’m just going to keep working hard,” he said.
Uchacz has already surpassed his goal total from the 2021-22 campaign where he scored 14 goals in 52 games. In terms of points, he is 10 shy from overtaking his 33 points from last season as well.
Uchacz explained he has shot a lot more this season and in the offseason worked on that part of his game which has paid dividends. He also practiced different ways to enter the offensive zone and improved his play in the corners.
He has also been scoring when it matters most and is tied for second in the WHL with four game-winning goals.
“A few of them have been in the third period so just knowing that we need a goal to get ahead or a goal to win it. I think I’ve put a few in the third that have helped us get that lead so it’s been good,” he added.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said the biggest improvement he has seen from Uchacz is his speed is at a more consistent level.
“Last year you’d see it at times but he didn’t always play a fast game,” he said. “You need to play a fast game… and then you stay on top of your game I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Konowalchuk added Uchacz seems to be looking to shoot first more often in the offensive zone and more importantly, in the last month he’s had a great work ethic and has been focused.
“That’s important so it sure helps him to be a top player in this league,” he added.
The Rebels bench boss described Uchacz as a two-way centreman who can also play a physical style of game and use his size to his advantage.
“He’s not a guy who cheats for offence or really can cheat for offence. He’s a guy [that gets] puck possession by playing good defensively, carrying the puck out of our end, and creating offence by grinding the other teams out with his size and strength.”
“He’s a complete hockey player. The more you work without the puck you get the puck more and good things happen.”