Slow start, strong finish.
In terms of an individual finding his way through a hockey season, that’s better than the other way around.
Red Deer Rebels second-round bantam draft pick Mason Burr struggled somewhat as a 15-year-old in his first season at the midget AAA level, but eventually found his legs and closed out the 2009-10 Alberta Midget Hockey League campaign as a confident player.
“It was kind of an up and down year for me,” Burr, who scored eight goals and collected 19 points in 34 regular-season games with the UFA Bisons, said Friday at the Arena following the opening day of the Rebels spring prospects camp. “I started off pretty slow but I picked it up by the end of the season, which was encouraging.”
Burr, taken in the 2009 Western Hockey League bantam draft, was impressive in exhibition games with the Rebels last September. He also appeared in two regular-season contests.
“I think I did OK in the preseason games and when I came up to the league I think I did even better,” said Burr, who had one assist in two AMHL playoff games this spring.
The 16-year-old forward is participating in his second Rebels prospects camp and looked and felt like a veteran Friday. However, the skill and speed of the 15-year-olds impressed the Airdrie native.
“Some of these younger guys are pretty good,” Burr noted. “They’re very quick.”
Burr, who helped Team Alberta take top honours in the first-ever WHL-sponsored Western Canada Under-16 Championship in Blackfalds last fall, is a strong skater and a prime candidate to crack the Rebels’ lineup for the 2010-11 season, but will continue to work on every aspect of his game during the summer.
“I just want to work on everything and continue to get better. My goal is to make this team in the fall,” he said.
Rebels head coach and vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin confirmed that Burr will almost certainly be in the mix for full-time employment in the very near future.
“He’s a pretty talented kid. He’s got a great set of hands, he’s a pretty good skater and he seems to have an ability to score. Those are qualities that are tough to teach,” said Wallin. “He’s a guy who we hope will have a good training camp in August and fight for a spot on our team.”
Burr’s ability was noticeable Friday, but he wasn’t the best player on the ice. That honour went to defenceman Matt Dumba, the club’s first-round pick in the ‘09 bantam draft who joined the Rebels late in the ‘09-10 season.
Wallin also liked defencemen Matt Pufahl, who missed most of last season due to shoulder surgery, Danys Chartrand, David Heath and Kevin Pochuk.
Pufahl, 16, should get a long look in main camp and beyond. Listed 16-year-olds Chartrand and Heath are fellow candidates, while Pochuk was taken in this year’s draft and isn’t eligible to play full-time in the WHL until 2011.
“Pufahl is a big kid and he’s skating well. Considering how much time he missed last winter, I thought he looked pretty good today,” said Wallin. “There’s some intelligent defencemen here. The practice started off a little sloppy, which is to be expected, but once the (scrimmage) got going you could see the intelligence in guys like Chartrand and Heath.
“Some of the lower-profile guys also stuck out. Pochuk, for example, is a guy who plays with his head up.”
Wallin also praised forward Scott Feser, a Red Deer native taken in this year’s draft, for his vision and tenacity, and was pleased that he finally got to see this year’s No. draft selection, defenceman Kayle Doetzel, in action.
“It was nice to see a kid like Doetzel on the ice. You hear a lot about him and it’s nice to get a visual,” said Wallin. “I certainly wasn’t disappointed in what I saw of him or anyone else during the first session, and the picture will become a lot clearer over the next couple of days.”
Today’s session runs from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m.
The camp concludes Sunday with a two-hour session that wraps up at 12:45 p.m.