Once he let the news sink in, Nathan Green realized that what first appeared to be an unsavory situation actually had a decent taste.
“It took a while to digest based on the fact that I still consider Brandon as one of my homes,” Green said on Tuesday, reflecting on the June trade that saw the 20-year-old forward move from the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Red Deer Rebels in return for a CHL import draft pick.
“I lived there for three years and got to know not just the players and the rest of the organization, but also the people living in Brandon.”
But the Winnipeg native didn’t take long to embrace the notion of ending his Western Hockey League career with the Rebels.
“At first it (news of the trade) was tough, but this is a great situation for me,” he said, following a preview of the Rebels’ McDonald’s Black and White game, set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Centrium.
“Red Deer is a great organization and I’m excited about this season.”
Green moved in with his billet family on Monday and is starting to feel right at home as he rubs shoulders with his 2009-10 teammates.
“I came here not really knowing anyone because there are no Manitobans on the team. The only times I’d seen these guys was playing against them, but I’m getting to know them now,” he said.
“There’s not a better venue or sport to meet people. You know you’re going to be with these guys almost 24/7.
“They’re your best friends and become like family over the years.”
The six-foot, 178-pound centre notched 24 goals and collected 59 points in 72 regular-season games with the Wheat Kings last winter, then contributed seven goals and 14 points in 12 playoff contests.
The Red Deer coaching staff will look to the veteran to continue to contribute offensively as well as assume a leadership role.
“No question, he’s been excellent in the way he’s treated the young guys this week (during training camp) and just the way he carries himself,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“Nathan is an experienced, mature guy and we’re going to rely on him very heavily this season.
“He’s a guy who is a very good player but also comes with a lot of maturity and is just a real presence for everyone. I think players like ‘Hoppy’ (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and Landon (Ferraro) are guys who can really benefit from his presence. He has great hands and is a real intelligent player who sees the ice well, plus he can be a real mentor and a calming influence for our younger players.”
Sounds like a lot to put on one players’ plate, but Green is up for the challenge.
“I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity that Jesse gives me here,” he insisted. “Obviously he’s given me a big opportunity in bringing me here and I’m really confident that this team will go far this season.”
Green knows that a successful season for the Rebels could be of personal benefit down the road.
“It’s pretty much everyone’s dream to get that pro contact, whether that be in the AHL or in Europe. But the main focus this year is to help take this team far in the post season and whatever comes after that will be a bonus,” he said.
The extra load he’ll be asked to carry this season might open a few doors next fall.
“Hopefully it does. I want to keep playing hockey after this season in Red Deer, wherever that may be,” he said. “I’m just excited for that first regular-season game.”
Green and his Team White mates fell 6-2 to Team Burgundy in the final scrimmage of training camp on Tuesday.
Matthew Dumba, a 15-year-old defenceman and the Rebels’ first pick — fourth overall — in this year’s bantam draft, scored once and added an assist for the winners, while Ferraro and Willie Coetzee each had a goal and a single helper and Brett Ferguson, Brett Miller and Colten Meaver also tallied. Jesse Mireau, an unheralded 18-year-old forward from Martensville, Sask., notched both Team White goals, showing great patience and nifty hands in the process.
Veteran netminder Darcy Kuemper allowed three goals in the loss, while Brenden Mandrusiak gave up one and fellow 16-year-old Zach Rakochy surrendered two. Although sharp at times, Cam Gorchysnki was beaten on both of Mireau’s goals, following a first-half shutout performance by teammate Kraymer Barnstable.
Green skated alongside veteran Cass Mappin and rookie prospect Jordan Neduzak, and could find himself with the same linemates during tonight’s Black and White contest.
“The coaches have been kind of mixing and matching lines in camp,” said Green. “It doesn’t matter what the lines are, everyone seems to be clicking right now and comfortable playing with whoever they get put with. If our line stays together, great. If not, then that’s fine too.”
• The Rebels coaching staff received some excellent news on Tuesday when blood tests performed on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Czech defenceman Jindra Barak came back as negative. Both players have yet to skate in camp while suffering from flu-like symptoms.
“They’re both fine and they skated for 20 minutes before practice this morning,” said Wallin. “But neither one of them has a lot of energy, they’re still dehydrated. They’ll go for another skate in the morning but they likely won’t play (tonight).”
• Forward Nathan Murray of White City, Sask., was released on Tuesday but the remaining players — with the expection of defenceman Alex Petrovic (groin injury) — who participated in the main camp will compete in the Black and White Game.
The coaching staff promoted 15 players from rookie camp to fill out the Black and White rosters. On that list are goaltenders Brenden Mandrusiak and Zach Rakochy, defenceman Matt Dumba, Channing Bresciani, Kirsten Odendaal and Lucas Grayson, and forwards Colten Mayor, Mason Burr, Tyson McCallum, Tyson Ness, Chase McMurphy, Chad Robinson, Joel Hamilton, Marc McCoy and Colten Meaver.