The RCMP are known for always getting their man.
Red Deer Rebels assistant general manager/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter might not be that proficient, but he was able to track down a prized prospect last week and eventually get his name on a Western Hockey League standard players contract.
As a result, Brandon Hagel is on the Rebels roster for the 2015-16 season. Clearly, Sutter took the right approach in pursuing the 17-year-old Morinville native, who started the season with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines in grand fashion with a goal and two assists in two games.
“Our second game was in Drayton Valley and he (Sutter) was there,” Hagel said Tuesday, prior to an off-ice workout at Can-Pro. “He contacted my advisor and my advisor contacted me. We talked for a good day and they asked if I could come out to practice. The Rebels needed a left winger so I went out for practice and was asked to sign right after.”
Despite the fact the Rebels should be among the WHL’s premier teams this season and will host the Memorial Cup tournament in May, Hagel admitted the decision to leave the junior A ranks and thus eliminate his NCAA scholarship eligibility was not an easy one.
“It was tough because I’ve talked to a few (U.S.) colleges this year,” he said. “I wasn’t sure which route to take, so it was a tough decision. But I think I made the right one for myself.”
The six-foot, 165-pound forward is confident he can fast-track his pro aspirations by playing at the major junior level and catching the eye of NHL scouts.
“We’re going to have a good team this year and obviously, for myself, it’s going to be good as well with all the exposure and the Memorial Cup … everything should be good,” he stated.
Hagel was held pointless in the Rebels’ final two preseason games Friday and Saturday but was not disappointed with his performance.
“The games were very fast with bigger guys,” he said. “But I just had to play a smarter game. I stuck to my game and I thought it worked out well for me.”
Hagel was an offensive kingpin throughout minor hockey and potted 23 goals and collected 51 points in 34 games with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers last season.
“Hopefully I can produce what I have been the last few years, but as long as I’m helping the team and everything is going the team’s way, then everything is good,” he said.
• Rugged forward Evan Polei returned to the club Monday after attending the Detroit Red Wings rookie and main camps.
Polei made an impression during a prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., where he engaged in a long and successful bout with Lacombe native Sam Jardine, who was with the Chicago Blackhawks prospects.
“They (Red Wings) told me that I played well, that I was consistent and that I clearly know my job out there,” Polei said Tuesday. “They know what I bring every night and they’re going to be watching me this season.
“I just have to have a good year and a good Memorial Cup and help the team out. That’s what I plan on doing.”
Polei enjoyed the NHL camp experience, something he feels every player should strive to achieve.
“The hockey was really fast in the prospects tournament and getting to know some of the first-round picks and playing with those guys and seeing what it’s all about and what it takes to play at that level … that was an eye-opener.
“Later on, in main camp, (Henrik) Zetterberg showed up, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Pavel) Datsyk … seeing those guys and how they work was just unbelievable. It was an amazing experience and that should be a goal for everyone who plays hockey — to have that opportunity.”
Rebels forwards Wyatt Johnson and Lane Pederson returned to Red Deer late Tuesday from the Anaheim Ducks camp, while centre Adam Musil was set to return from the St. Blues camp last night or today.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter was unsure of the status of forward Michael Spacek and defenceman Nelson Nogier, both attending the Winnipegs Jets camp. Meanwhile, centre Conner Bleackley (Colorado) and rearguard Haydn Fleury (Carolina) will almost certainly appear in NHL preseason games and aren’t expected back in time for the Rebels’ regular-season opener Saturday against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.
• Former Rebels Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dion Phaneuf and Cam Ward are on the list — compiled by league historians — of the WHL’s top 125 players of all time.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter (Lethbridge) is also on the list, as are Central Alberta natives Glen Wesley of Red Deer (Portland), Brad Stuart (Calgary, Regina) and Greg Joly (Regina) of Rocky Mountain House, Darcy Tucker (Kamloops) of Castor, Shane Doan (Kamloops) of Halkirk and Kris Russell (Medicine Hat) of Caroline.