The Red Deer College Kings men’s hockey team has started the reloading process for next season.
On Saturday head coach Trevor Keepeer announced the signing of Red Deer defenceman Kirk Johnson.
The WHL veteran helps to fill a large void on the blue line with the Kings after they lost top defencemen Nick Bell and Joel Topping as well as converted forward Davis Claffey.
Johnson was a member of the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs 2012 Telus Cup team, scoring 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 29 games, and spent the next two seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL. This past season as a 20-year-old, the five-foot-11, 201-pound blueliner became a casualty of the numbers game with the Calgary Hitmen and signed on to play for the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“He’s had good coaching a long the way and looking at his skill set as a defenceman who can skate and move the puck and he’s solid too in terms of his size,” said Keeper.
“That experience will suit him fine at the ACAC level. We saw that with Joel Topping last year, similar size, a good skater, and even though Joel was still of junior age, he was able to step in and contribute at the pace of our league.”
The Kings also lost top forwards Greg Lamoureux and Riley Point who have been with the club since it returned to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association two years ago, both to the Mount Royal University Cougars in the Canada West University Athletics Association.
Keeper has his work cut out to fill all four of the remaining spots, but three years into a rebuilding project, this was expected and says he should have more announcements in the next few weeks.
Helping in the process is the success the team has had the first two seasons in the ACAC, making the playoffs both years.
“You just want to keep improving, but the reality is most teams will take three or four or five years to get to a point where they’re in the top level of a league,” said Keeper. “We definitely ant to be there next year and push through and go deeper than we have the last two seasons.
“Our success early has led to the opportunity for me to receive a lot of calls from some good players that want to come here. Two years ago when I started recruiting, I was at the initial stage of explaining that our team was back and what our program was all about. The guys that committed … they didn’t have a clue what they were getting into because we were a brand new entity. Now that we’re established