The Red Deer Rebels are exactly one-third of the way through the 2019-20 WHL season and that means it’s time for an honest evaluation of the progress.
There have been plenty of yikes moments this season for the club, let’s get that out of the way first. They’re 18th in the WHL, with a 7-12-0-3 record through 22 games, with 56 goals scored compared to 90 allowed. That minus 34 goal differential is third-worst in the league and they have 4.09 goals against average, second-worst in the league. They also have the most penalty minutes in the WHL with 319.
Their penalty kill is operating at 78.9 per cent, allowing 22 goals in 104 chances. The power play is at 16.7 percent, 17th in the league.
Bumps in the road, to be sure. A rollercoaster of emotion and results.
Counterbalance all that by realizing they have one of the youngest teams in the WHL, with the average age around 17.78 and as many as 12 16 and 17-year-olds on their roster in the league dominated by 18 and 19-year-olds.
Patience is a difficult thing to embrace when watching a hockey team play night in and night out. It’s especially frustrating when the Rebels are 2-6-0-3 on the Centrium ice while sitting a respectable 5-6 away from the Centrium.
Goaltending has quite obviously not been where the team has needed it to be.
Ethan Anders hasn’t lived up to his own expectations or the teams so far, with a .888 save percentage and 3.9 goals against average. He’s the goalie, so ultimately the numbers show up on his stats page, but on many nights, he’s been a man on an island, hung out to dry by inexperience in front of him. His GAA through almost 100 games before this year was around 3.09, and his SV% was .906, so expect the 19-year-old netminder to level out as the season progresses.
More so than individually, it’s been team defence that breaks down for the Rebels’ team. They have long stretches where they are hemmed in, in their own zone and from there, it’s quite difficult to produce offence.
The Rebels 20-year-olds have been exactly as advertised. Brett Davis is quietly having a nice season, winning over 50 per cent of his faceoffs and producing at 0.64 points-per-game pace, slightly above his career average. Cam Hausinger has been effective but could use a bit more production, with just three goals and 10 points in 22 games. He had 38 points in 40 games with Red Deer last season, nearly a point-per-game.
Down the middle the future looks bright for the Rebels, with three rugged, skilled and smart centremen, all who are just 17. Ben King has played close to 100 games already in the league, Jayden Grubbe is taking big-time faceoffs and at times his skill is off the charts good. Jace Isley is a tough to play against, energy-providing centre who was a point per game player in midget last season.
Christoffer Sedoff looks like he could be a legit NHL draft pick through 22 games. His offensive numbers are fine, with a goal and eight assists, but it’s his shutdown ability, skating and first pass that had him on the NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch list as a B-prospect. Paired with Mason Ward in the future, that has the makings of a standout shutdown pair that can also provide offence.
So while the hits have been coming for this young group, having one eye on the future and how they will stack up in a year or two from now, is going to be an important part of the experience watching this group for the next 46 games.