Could Haydn Fleury be the next Alex Petrovic?
Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin was hesitant to make that comparison Friday, but there’s little doubt that the Rebels have big plans for Fleury, who was selected in the second round of the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft and has two-way skills — and size — that compare favourably to Petrovic, the WHL’s top defenceman in the 2011-12 season and a future Florida Panther.
“I think he has that type of potential,” Wallin said of the six-foot-two, 190-pound Fleury, who will celebrate his 16th birthday next month. “I hate to compare kids, but he’s a guy who I think can be a real presence at both ends of the rink. He’s got a bit of an edge to his game and he likes to play physical. He’s not afraid to mix it up and he has a good shot and makes a good first pass.”
Sounds a lot like Petrovic.
“We certainly are very high on (Fleury), we’re excited about him,” said Wallin, following the first day of the Rebels spring prospects camp at the Penhold Multiplex.
“He’s almost a man as far as his physical aspects. He’s grown a lot over the past year and has really matured physically.
“He’s played with a lot of confidence, as he should.”
Fleury scored six goals and collected 21 points in 39 regular-season games with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League Notre Dame Argos and potted a single goal and had four assists in eight post-season contests. He also played four games with the Rebels last winter.
“He got a taste of things last year, he got exposed to the league and hopefully he uses that experience to his advantage coming into training camp (in late August). Certainly he’s a guy we think can be an impact player as a 16-year-old,” said Wallin.
Clearly, the Rebels bench boss expects Fleury to be on the club’s regular-season roster at the end of September.
The Carlyle, Sask., resident isn’t taking anything for granted, although he does feel he can make a difference if he does in fact crack the lineup in September.
“I just want to come in and play my game and earn the coach’s trust and hopefully by the end of the year I can be a top-four defenceman for this team,” said Fleury.
And his game is?
“I like to move the puck up the ice and also join into the rush. And I feel I also have a good shot from the blueline,” said Fleury, who credits Notre Dame coach Del Pedrick for his development.
With his physical presence the talented rearguard can also play a rough-and-tumble contest, but he’s not a gambler.
“Every once in awhile the big hit will come out, but I’m not going to run around looking for it,” he said.
The fact he appeared in four WHL games last season will help Fleury adjust to the major junior level.
“Playing those games gave me good experience as far as knowing what I have to work on. And watching guys like Petro (Petrovic) and (Mathew) Dumba and trying to model my game after them was a plus,” said Fleury.
The Rebels spring camp continues today with a two-hour session starting at 3:45 p.m. and concludes with a 9 to 11 a.m. session Sunday.