Big forward impresses at Rebels camp

The Red Deer Rebels’ Swedish import is a dangler, a large forward with nifty puck-handling skills and a nose for the net.

John Persson during training camp scrimmage; ‘Pretty fast and tough

The Red Deer Rebels’ Swedish import is a dangler, a large forward with nifty puck-handling skills and a nose for the net.

John Persson appears to have the skill necessary to attack and score from all angles, and based on the NHL countryman he feels he most resembles, he’s not afraid to venture into the dirty areas.

“Maybe Franzen,” he replied on Sunday, when asked who he might fashion his game after. “He drives to the net and scores goals.”

Persson was referring to Detroit Red Wings sniper Johan Franzen, who would have been proud of the manner in which the 17-year-old Swede bounced back from a stiff check during the Rebels’ main camp scrimmage Sunday afternoon, then notched Team Black’s lone regulation-time goal in a 2-1 shootout win over Team Grey.

Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin was clearly impressed with the six-foot-two, 188-pound forward.

“He’s a big guy who skates well and has good hands for a big man. So far, so good,” said Wallin, following the first day of the Western Hockey League club’s 2009 training camp at the Centrium.

“It was good for him to get into a game situation. He looked good (during drills) this morning and this afternoon he was able to get out there and get adjusted to the North American game. I know he’s mentioned that the size of the ice is a little different for him.

“He took a good hit one shift, got up and looked OK, so hopefully he’ll adjust to that part of the game.

“He looks good so far.”

Persson admitted that his first scrimmage in a Rebels practice uniform was an experience in itself.

“It was tough, pretty fast with lots of tackles and stuff,” he said, in near-perfect English, a language he’s studied since the first grade.

“I was pretty happy. The first period wasn’t that good for me but in the second (period) I got into it.”

Persson skated with the Mora IK junior team in Sweden last season and for the first time competed for his country in an under-17 tournament also involving teams from Finland, Czech Republic and Russia. He was selected by the Rebels in the first round of this year’s CHL draft, 41st overall.

“I got happy, a little excited to come here,” he said of his initial reaction to being picked in the draft.

“I didn’t talk to anyone from Red Deer about coming here. My agent did that stuff.”

At the time, Persson said he knew little of the WHL except for the tidbits he’d gathered by word of mouth.

“Just that it was going to be tough . . . big defence,” he said.

But Persson is confident that he’ll make the proper adjustments and contribute offensively.

“Hopefully I can score some goals, that’s the main thing,” he said.

He’s definitely aiming high in terms of what the Rebels as a team might be able to accomplish.

“Hopefully we’ll win the Memorial Cup,” he said.

Training camp resumed today with a rookie session at 8:30 a.m. The rookies will return to the ice at 2:45 p.m., with the main camp players participating in drills from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and scrimmaging from 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.

On Tuesday, the rookies will scrimmage from 8:30 to 10 a.m., and the main camp participants will take over from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Players participating in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. McDonald’s Black and White game will scrimmage from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Rebels’ first preseason game is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. versus the Moose Jaw Warriors at St. Albert.

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