Big defenceman arrives

The Red Deer Rebels defence got a little deeper and talented Tuesday. The Rebels added 17-year-old Simon Witt in a trade with the Vancouver Giants that saw a third-round pick in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft go the other way.

Red Deer Rebel Simon Witt keeps his eye on a flying puck during practice at the Centrium on Tuesday.

The Red Deer Rebels defence got a little deeper and talented Tuesday.

The Rebels added 17-year-old Simon Witt in a trade with the Vancouver Giants that saw a third-round pick in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft go the other way.

Rebels head coach and vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin feels the six-foot-three, 183-pound Witt will step into the lineup.

“He’s a big kid who will fit as a top-six defenceman . . . he adds size to our defence, which needed to get bigger,” he said.

“He has a lot of potential, but he was in a situation in Vancouver where they had five defencemen in the ‘92 and ‘93 age groups and couldn’t keep them all. He was pencilled in this year, but a couple of 16-year-olds popped into their system during the summer and they had a glut of young defencemen, so it worked out for us.”

It also worked out for Witt.

“It’s a good chance for me to come in and get more ice time, something that probably wouldn’t be the case in Vancouver,” said Witt, who left Vancouver Tuesday morning and arrived in time for practice in the afternoon.

“It’s been a quick turnaround, but something I’m looking forward to. I want to be contribute to this team and help them be better,” he said.

Witt grew up in Victoria and was a fifth-round draft pick by the Giants in 2007.

He played a year of major midget hockey at home before joining the Giants last season. He played seven games with the WHL squad, with no points and two minutes in penalties, before joining Grandview of the junior B league.

“I stayed (with the Giants) until close to Christmas then when down,” explained Witt, who believes the limited time he was with the WHL squad will benefit him this season.

“It was a good experience getting several games under my belt and getting used to the travel and practice schedule. It’s an advantage coming in this season,” he said.

Witt sees himself as a stay-at-home defencemen much in the style of Vancouver Canucks Willie Mitchell.

“I try to take care of my own end and what goes on in my end, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

That’s something that makes Wallin smile.

“He’s not flashy, but he skates well and has a long reach,” said Wallin.

“But he also moves the puck well and as he gets more comfortable and plays a bit more he’ll develop nicely into a top four defenceman. I know he fits nicely into our group of defencemen this year and as we move forward.”

With Witt’s addition it leaves the Rebels with eight rearguards, one of whom will likely be reassigned.

“We’ll make a decision in the next day or two,” said Wallin, who’ll have Witt in the lineup Friday when the Rebels open their regular season against the Calgary Hitmen at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium.

Also in camp are Cullen Morin, Colin Archer, Alex Petrovic, Justin Weller, Brad Deagle, Nick Bell and important Jindrich Barak.

Wallin feels he has a nice mix of experience and youth on the back end.

“Petro (Petrovic) is only 17, but is experienced and he fits in nicely along with Cullen,” said Wallin. “Archer and Weller are also both in their third year, so we’re not that young. We have a good group with good size and a good mix of grit and puck moving ability.”

• Landon Ferraro and Willie Coetzee returned from the Detroit Red Wings camp late Tuesday . . . Darcy Kuemper (Minnesota) and Cass Mappin (Columbus) should also be back today while Weller (Phoenix) will return Thursday . . . The WHL will work in partnership with the four Western Canada provincial hockey associations to run the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in Blackfalds . . . The top U16 players in each province will compete in the first-ever championship . . . The Town of Blackfalds, the Blackfalds Minor Hockey Association, the WHL and the Rebels will run the event.

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