Build it up in the year 2000

How the Red Deer Rebels will feature a unique number of 17-year-olds this season

Seventeen-year-olds are a unique commodity in the WHL.

Often pegged as the building blocks on which a franchise can stake their future, they usually aren’t the make or break factor for a team’s short-term playoff chances. It’s rare at 17, a player has a huge impact on a WHL team. Only four times in the last seven years league wide has a player that age put up more than 100 points.

When the Red Deer Rebels drop the puck on the new campaign Saturday, they will have nine 17-year-old players including goalie Ethan Anders, something that GM/head coach Brent Sutter apparently pays little attention to.

“I don’t get caught up in ages. I don’t look at a team that you have to have so many 19, 18 or 17-year-olds. I want the best hockey players,” Sutter said. “It’s whoever is going to play well, they deserve it. We have three 20-year-olds, if we end up down to two, there’s no need for us to get a third unless it’s the right type of player that fits in with the mix and can be an impact guy for us.”

With a top line of 19-year-olds and no 20-year-old on the blueline, the Rebels will likely have one of the younger rosters in the 22-team league.

Rather than fill the bottom half of their roster with older players who might only be around for a year or two, Red Deer has actively put younger players in those roles. That helps speed any rebuilding process that might occur. It’s a plan that the team has been working since before they hosted the Memorial Cup.

“Because we lost a lot of guys, you are forcing guys into certain roles,” Sutter said of last season. “Especially on our third and fourth lines last year. Some of them weren’t ready for that. Now they’re ready for that. They’re better players today. They’re bigger, stronger and quicker. They understand what the game is all about at this level.”

If a 16-year-old is lucky enough to crack a WHL roster, like the Rebels group of Jacob Herauf, Dawson Barteaux, Chris Douglas and Brandon Cutler did last season, they don’t always dress for a tangible amount of games. Each of those four played between 20-30 games in the 2016-2017 campaign, but stuck out the whole season on the roster. This year however, that experience will play a big role.

“Those are 17-year-old players, by Christmas time, they’re going to be like 19-year-olds. That’s what’s so cool about this,” Sutter said.

Douglas, a six-foot, 170-pound right winger said his stint last year taught him a valuable lesson about what he needs to do this season.

“Last year was about getting as much experience as I could and being a sponge as Brent likes to say,” Douglas explained. “I think with the 25 games I got into last year, it feels like a different league coming in this year.”

RedDeerRebelsWHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drugs seized from Innisfail home

Innisfail RCMP conduct search warrant

Police move to clear rail blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY, Ont. — Ontario Provincial Police moved Monday morning to… Continue reading

Company walks away from massive oilsands project

VANCOUVER — Teck Resources Ltd. has withdrawn its application for a massive… Continue reading

Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

BARSTOW, Calif. — A California man who said he wanted to fly… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Raptors Uprising GC offer second chance to gamer suspended for 2019 season

TORONTO — Raptors Uprising GC, the gaming arm of the Raptors, has… Continue reading

Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson wins Canadian women’s curling championship

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A dream team of former skips came together… Continue reading

Weinstein jury back to work with signs of split over charges

NEW YORK — Jurors at Harvey Weinstein’s New York City rape trial… Continue reading

Jane Goodall’s ‘The Book of Hope’ coming out in 2021

NEW YORK — Jane Goodall’s next book will be a tribute to… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake Wranglers comeback to nab OT win in Game 2 over Red Deer Vipers

The Sylvan Lake Wranglers have a knack for the dramatics early in… Continue reading

Wranglers win wild Game 1 double OT thriller over Red Deer Vipers

The best-of-seven series continues Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Kings and Queens basketball triumph over Ambrose, keep playoff hopes alive

Guard Sandra Garica-Bernal sets new Queens all-time steals mark

Most Read