Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell, 17, grew up watching and idolizing the Rebels and now gets a chance to play for his hometown club. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Josh Tarzwell at home on and off the ice with Red Deer Rebels

He grew up at the Centrium, watching the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Byron Froese and Matt Dumba hon their craft.

Did Josh Tarzwell, 17, ever think he’d skate on the same ice as those players he watched hit the ice as a wide-eyed 10-year-old?

”No, no way,” said Tarzwell, a Red Deer native, with a wide smile and a laugh.

The newest Red Deer Rebels forward, acquired in a trade late Friday night with the Lethbridge Hurricanes for veteran Lane Zablocki along with a second round WHL Bantam Draft pick and a third round conditional pick in 2020, said he’s happy to be home Tuesday after an off-ice workout.

“It’s been great, I love it. A lot of fun being back here. Guys are great and accepting me. Just awesome so far,” he said.

The whirlwind day on Saturday included an unexpected trip home to play in the rink he grew up watching and idolizing Rebels’ players. He arrived just under two hours before puck drop but said there was still plenty of family support in the Centrium seats at puck drop.

Nerves were definitely high for the former Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chief to play in front of the hometown faithful, but as the night progressed, it started to feel like just another game.

“Pretty crazy, had a long day but I think I came back and gave it everything I had. it was really fun, so glad to be playing in this place again,” he said.

“First period, pretty nervous. As we got it out of the way it was just like playing in Lethbridge. Real comfortable.”

Tarzwell is another piece of the Rebels’ future plans, at 17, he’s already played in 66 games with the Hurricanes and was part of their playoff run last year. Red Deer has a host of 17-year-old players, including Brandon Cutler, Chris Douglas, Austin Schellenberg, Jacob Herauf, Dawson Barteaux, Sam Pouliot and Hunter Donohoe.

Growing with that core is exciting according to Tarzwell, but also helping them now breakout of an 11-game losing streak before Christmas is top of mind.

“Just keep a positive attitude. Try not to get down on ourselves. We’re doing a lot of things right and working hard on and off the ice. So I think it’s going to come,” he said.

“(I play a) physical and fast-paced game. I want to be one of the go-to guys here. Help the guys get out of the slump and keep helping.”

Tarzwell had a cup of coffee with the Hurricanes back in 2015-2016, before suiting up for 36 games last year with two goals and five points. In 10 playoff games, he pitched in a goal and three assists. This year, through 28 games in Lethbridge he notched three goals and 14 points.

From 2013-2015 in two seasons with the Red Deer Rebels White in Bantam AAA, Tarzwell had 60 points in 65 games and also played a handful with the Red Deer Northstar Chiefs. In 2015-2016, he had 18 points in 32 games with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.

He’s also eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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