Red Deer Rebels blueliner Dawson Barteaux is set to lead the club this season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Dawson Barteaux eager for season after return from Dallas Stars camp

Dawson Barteaux is ready to prove the doubters wrong.

The 19-year-old Red Deer Rebels captain understands there are plenty of reasons to discount the young group ahead of the WHL season, but thinks the team can use that to their advantage.

Red Deer will have their first chance to silence the critics and showcase the new crop of talent Saturday night in the home opener against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

“Nobody can count us out. We might be young but we’re not going to get outworked by anybody and we’re definitely going to surprise some teams,” Barteaux said.

I know I’m okay with being an underdog. That’s less pressure on us, so those teams that are in contention need to watch out for us.”

Barteaux returned earlier this week from his second Dallas Stars Training Camp and said that experience has him ready to go for his fourth WHL season.

“I kind of knew what I was walking into, knew what I needed to do and where I needed to be. I feel like it was a successful camp but I’m happy to be back with the Rebels and ready to get it going,” he said.

The six-foot-one, 190-pound blueliner helped the Stars advance to the final of an eight-team rookie tournament in Traverse City, Michigan earlier this month and also got a taste of main camp in Dallas.

He even pulled on a Stars sweater in a preseason game, against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues no less. The Foxwarren, Man. native played 19 minutes and 37 seconds in the contest, logging almost a minute of penalty kill time and also blocked a shot.

“It was definitely a heavy, fast game but it was a good experience to know what level I have to get to,” he said.

“It was surreal. Since I was a little kid you dream of something like that and to actually get a chance to do it, even if it was just a preseason game it was super special. I just had to take it shift-by-shift and do my best.”

This season for the Rebels, Barteaux will have to log big minutes on the blueline. Without the steady presence of Alex Alexeyev in Red Deer, it will be Barteaux’s responsibility to play in all situations as the team’s top defenceman. The last two seasons he averaged just over half a point per game, with 10 goals and 56 assists in 131 games.

Yet, just four years ago, Barteaux entered the WHL as a highly touted, first round, 14th overall pick of the Regina Pats.

Then, as a 16-year-old, at the trade deadline in 2016, he was part of a blockbuster trade that sent defenceman Josh Mahura and Austin Pratt the other way.

From all that the Rebels captain has learned a few valuable lessons and he hopes to pass that on to the young Rebels’ core this year.

“They’re here for a reason. We have the best coaching staff in the league here to help them through it,” said Barteaux of the Rebels young talent.

“I know when I was 16 getting traded was a really good thing for me and I learned a lot, Brent gave me a lot of chances even when I did make some mistakes. They’re all good players, they all deserve to be here and they’re going to make their way up in this league.”

As for lining up against the Oil Kings, who won the Central Division a year ago and went toe-to-toe with the Prince Albert Raiders in the conference final, Saturday will be a tough test to start the year.

“Obviously being in their division and being rivals forever, they’re a good team and they’re fast and move the puck well,” Barteaux said.

“If we can just get the puck in deep and work their D, just work harder than them we’ll be fine.”

The puck drops for Red Deer Advocate home opener at the Centrium Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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