Former Red Deer Rebels forward Brandon Hagel. (Photo bv BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Former Red Deer Rebels forward Brandon Hagel. (Photo bv BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Hagel flourishing in early days of pro hockey

Former Rebel has 11 points in 20 games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs

Brandon Hagel was a beloved figure in a Red Deer Rebels uniform.

One of the best of all time to suit up for the club to be sure, he rose to the top of the charts in several offensive categories by the time it was all said and done.

A formidable feat, considering the undersized winger was once passed over in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, only to play four seasons and 259 games in the league.

His finest work came in his WHL swansong when he earned an NHL contract and topped the 100-point mark for the first time in his career, the first Rebel to do so since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2010.

In his final WHL season last year, the Morinville product became the franchise leader in assists (176), moved into second in points (279) and fourth in goals (103).

He doesn’t think about all that too often, because he’s onto the next goal.

“It was good. I can’t focus on that anymore. Sometimes people bring it up and I’ll thank them, but my next goal is the NHL and I have to move on from that and keep pushing forward,” said the 21-year-old.

Hagel is into is first pro season with the Rockford IceHogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. He dipped his toe in the water at the end of last season for eight games, recording just one assist.

This year, playing largely a third-line role, he’s been a productive player. He has pitched in six goals and five assists through 20 games, and is quickly finding out what it takes to play at the next level.

“Being able to fit into your role and do different things,” he said.

“It’s not always the same but once you adapt that way, it’s pretty good and obviously Red Deer set me up for a good opportunity and it’s a first-class organization and they are definitely going to translate to the pro game here.”

His first big pro milestone came on Nov. 3 against the Chicago Wolves when he scored his first goal.

“It was pretty good, I was snake bitten for a little bit, but finally got it out of the way and they’ve kinda just been coming one at a time. Nice to get it out of the way. Keep playing and hope good things happen,” noted the first-year pro.

One thing the Hagel quickly noticed in the AHL, is that it’s not all that dissimilar to his time with the Rebels. He praised Brent Sutter and the organization for preparing him for the American League challenge.

“Red Deer ran perfect, Brent has been through it all and he prepared me for exactly what I needed for the pro level and has helped me out a ton. I’ve noticed it and I can’t thank them enough,” Hagel said.

He’s also got a close friend to lean on, as Reese Johnson, his former teammate with the Rebels is centering his own line in Rockford.

Johnson is also being quietly productive with the IceHogs, notching seven points in 17 games. Hagel is living with another talented first-year pro, 20-year-old right winger, MacKenzie Entwistle, a 2017 third round pick by the Blackhawks. The young core have a lot in common and have really connected off the ice, including on an early-season trip to San Antonio.

“The road trips are pretty fun. We went down to San Antonio, we all had scooters, there was about 15 of us rolling around,” Hagel said.

“We have a great group of guys and that’s just a good thing to have at the pro level.”

So far, the two former Rebels and Entwhistle are playing a key role on the up and coming Rockford team, which is 12-8-0-1 on the year and winners of their last three.

If Hagel has anything to say about it, he hopes this isn’t the last stop, just the beginning of a long and prosperous pro career, much like his time in Red Deer.

I think consistency is a huge part. You want to play simple and just be good every single night,” he said.

“Whether your legs are going or not, just have to make the right decisions and hopefully that will get me to to the NHL.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

VICTORIA — Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have… Continue reading

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) comes in to celebrate with right wing Tom Wilson (43), right wing T.J. Oshie (77) and defenseman Justin Schultz (2), after Oshie's overtime goal in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Washington. The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Nic Dowd scores in OT, Capitals beat Bruins 3-2 in Game 1

Capitals 3 Bruins 2 (OT) (Washington leads series 1-0) WASHINGTON (AP) —… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

Most Read