Deagle wins fight for final roster spot

The Red Deer Rebels declared their three 20-year-olds for the remainder of the season more than a week before the WHL deadline, waiving Cody Esposito on Tuesday.

The Red Deer Rebels declared their three 20-year-olds for the remainder of the season more than a week before the WHL deadline, waiving Cody Esposito on Tuesday.

In Jordie Deagle’s opinion, the wait was long enough.

“It was a long month-and-a-half. You knew you were competing for that last spot so it was somewhat of an unsettling feeling. But it’s definitely good for it to all be over and done with,” said Deagle, who was clearly cognizant of the fact that he and Esposito were the overage players on the bubble with fellow 20-year-olds Nathan Green and Cullen Morin locked in.

With better wheels and more offensive upside than tough guy Esposito, Deagle was the favourite to stick with the Rebels. He wasn’t totally convinced of that, however.

“You never know what the coaches are looking for, so you always want to stay as sharp as you can and play with an edge,” said Deagle. “In a way it was good and I hope to keep that edge throughout the rest of the season and kind of play the same way.”

The downside of the decision is that the Rebels lost a solid teammate in Esposito.

“It was difficult that way. ‘Espo’ is a really good guy and he brought a lot to the team and the guys in the room loved him,” said Deagle. “He’s definitely going to be missed, but at the same time I really love playing here and I wanted to do whatever it took to stay.”

l Ponoka native Kyle Bailey is the official on-ice leader of the reigning Canadian university hockey champion New Brunswick Reds.

Bailey, a third-year forward and former member of the Portland Winterhawks and Lethbridge Hurricanes, has been named captain of the Reds by coach Gardiner MacDougall and a players vote.

“We’ve had really good captains here in our history, but when you go back over the last 10 or 12 years, every one of them has had really ‘wow’ attributes,” MacDougall told the Fredericton Daily Gleaner. “Kyle Bailey will just add to that list.”

Bailey called the honour “probably the biggest I’ve had in hockey.”

“I think 16 guys on this team were captain in major junior their last year,” said Bailey, a fourth-round selection of the Minnesota Wild in the 2005 NHL entry draft, “To be the guy that the coaching staff and your teammates look to as the captain of that group . . . in CIS hockey, there might not be a bigger honour.”

MacDougall is confident that the Reds have the right leader.

“He’s a warrior when it counts,” said the coach. “He’s the kind of player who can change a game with a shift. He’s just got that competitiveness to him. He’s got a good skill level, but his strongest attribute, I think, is his competitiveness, and the way he can lead a group in the (dressing) room. They always say that if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to give a little bit of yourself for the whole of the team, and he gives a whole lot of himself.”

Just notes: Former Rebels forward Spencer Edwards is like the cat with nine lives. He’s taking full advantage of his third go-round in the WHL as a solid two-way performer with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Edwards played 30 games with the Rebels — scoring three goals and adding one assist — in 2007-08 and was eventually dealt to Seattle, where the Thunderbirds played him all of six games before reassigning the Coquitlam, B.C., native to Cowichan Valley of the BCHL. Edwards has been a hit, both offensively and defensively, with the Warriors this fall, with six points — all goals — in eight games and a plus-minus rating of plus-3. The 18-year-old (he turns 19 next month) handled a particularly difficult task on Wednesday when he was asked to shadow Regina Pats star Jordan Eberle. The Edmonton Oilers prospect scored three goals, but all were special teams markers when Edwards wasn’t on the ice. “Five-on-five I thought (Edwards) did a fantastic job,” said Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak. “If you look at the big picture, Jordan Eberle still scored three goals. That’s just a world-class player. He could be one of the scariest guys on the power-play that I’ve ever seen at any level of hockey.” . . . The Portland Winterhawks are enjoying life in the fast lane after three miserable seasons. The ‘Hawks improved to 6-1-0-0 with Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the host Everett Silvertips. “It’s a big turnaround from the last two years,” Portland forward Luke Walker, one of the veterans who suffered through Portland’s down seasons, told the Everett Herald. “We’ve been waiting for this. We saw the guys coming in and said we can make something of this. Now we’ve put together a few wins and everyone’s positive. Everyone’s on the same page, we want to win. Last year was kind of a lost cause and everyone was just looking for points for themselves.” . . . The small-market Swift Current Broncos, with an all-time high of 1,766 season-ticket holders and an average attendance of 2,287, turned a profit of $158,285 over the 2008-09 season . . . The Calgary Hitmen are still ranked No. 1 in this week’s Canadian Hockey League top 10 listing. The Brandon Wheat Kings are ranked sixth, just ahead of the Kamloops Blazers . . . Regina Pats forward Jordan Weal is the WHL player of the week after scoring four goals and five assists for nine points in three Regina victories.

On the move: The Saskatoon Blades bulked up this week with the acquisition of six-foot-five, 221-pound forward Randy McNaught from the Chilliwack Bruins. “When I looked at our team, that’s an area I wanted to address,” Blades GM/coach Lorne Molleken told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “Certainly, Randy is a big, strong guy who is a competitor and he’ll go to battle for his teammates.” McNaught didn’t come cheap, with Molleken sending skilled forward Jamie Crooks — the Alberta Midget Hockey League scoring leader last season — to the Bruins . . . Chilliwack also picked up overage forward Colton Grant from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a sixth-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft, and on Thursday the Bruins dealt defenceman Scott Ramsay to the Swift Current Broncos in return for a seventh-round bantam pick . . . In other deals, the Kamloops Blazers traded forward Cole Grbavac, 18, to Medicine Hat for 19-year-old forward John Stampohar, and the Prince Albert Raiders sent goalie Steven Stanford to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for two defencemen — Brendon Wall, 19, and Tyler Yaworski, 17 ­— and a swap of draft picks, and acquired netminder Dalyn Flette, 19, from Brandon for a seventh-round draft pick that will be upgraded to a fifth-rounder if Flette is still with the Raiders on Dec. 1.