Column: The Red Deer Rebels and the very big weekend

We’re approaching the midway point of the WHL season and everything is all out of whack.

Or completely par for the course, depending on which expert you ask.

The Prince Albert Raiders are very good, much like the Edmonton Oil Kings, who sit tops in the WHL with a 20-6-5-2 record and 47 points.

Then there are the Medicine Hat Tigers, who haven’t necessarily come out of nowhere, but sit second in the entire WHL with a 22-8-1-0 record and 45 points while scoring a rediculous 137 goals in 31 games.

Don’t sleep on Portland or Everett either who have each won their last four games and are 9-1 and 8-2 in the last 10 respectively.

Some surprises are Vancouver and Saskatoon, right in the middle of the pack with .500 records, while some people predicted they’d be front runners (*cough*me* cough*).

With four and a half weeks until the trade deadline, there’s a lot of wiggle room for all that to change. As of Friday, the Red Deer Rebels were just six points out of a playoff spot.

In Red Deer, it always seems they like to do some early, shopping, as well as swing something at the deadline. Last year was the exception, with one minor deal on deadline day.

It was in and around early December, each of the last two seasons that Brent Sutter has made a decision to pull the trigger on a trade that dramatically affected his group.

Three days past that mark, it’s all quiet on the western front. The GM/head coach may just be biding his time until after the Christmas break, but there was a clear frustration after Wednesday’s loss, against a very beatable Lethbridge roster. They were without three of their four top point producers (Dylan Cozens, Calen Addison and Oliver Okuliar).

Sutter has some trade pieces, one being captain Dawson Barteaux. In no way does Sutter want to move his captain and cornerstone blueliner. But the market for a 19-year-old defenceman, who kills penalties and plays the power play is likely a big one. He’ll draw a huge return, setting up the Rebels for the future and adding to the already stockpile of 17-year-olds and other prospects Red Deer have collected over the past six months.

Josh Tarzwell could be intriguing for some teams, scoring half a point per game and with 12 goals through 30. Twenty-year-olds Brett Davis and Cam Hausinger will likely finish out the year in Red Deer, but could add valuable experience to a playoff contender.

Ethan Anders is another interesting name, as goalies are always in high demand at this time of year. A 19-year-old goalie and Sutter really doesn’t like to keep 20-year-olds at that position. If Anders returns from injury after Christmas, as he’s expected to do and plays well, he could be a trade chip the Rebels use. They proven to have a reliable option in Byron Fancy, as he’s played serviceably in his last five starts.

Whether nothing or everything happens in the next four and a half weeks, I’ll bet the WHL trade deadline is a busy one on Jan. 10.

Big weekend for Rebels

With all that trade wind blowing, the Rebels have a pair of big games this weekend. Friday, they host the scorching hot Medicine Hat Tigers, who have outscored opponents 19-7 in the last two games.

“Everybody follows it, everybody is paying attention,” said Tarzwell.

“We’re going to have to play really good (Friday) to come out with two points.”

Red Deer will have to shut down the dangerous James Hamblin, who is tops in the WHL with 17 goals and 49 points. Cole Sillinger leads all rookies with 12 goals and 22 points, Brent Kemp and Ryan Chyzowski make up the rest of what’s dangerous about the Tigers.

Still, Tarzwell thinks Red Deer should worry less about shutting them down and more about playing their game.

“You can only worry about them so much,” Tarzwell added.

“We really gotta focus on what we have to do, obviously have to be tough on their top players, but our team game has to be right where it needs to be in order for us to win.”

Saturday is also a big night for the Rebels. They will host their annual Toque Toss game. This year, they have also made the event a Teddy Bear Toss, combining all the goodies in hopes to help out the less fortunate in multiple ways.

They’ve also got discounted tickets and parking is free at the Centrium for that game. Game time is 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 against the Swift Current Broncos.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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