You can be forgiven for seeing double on the Red Deer Rebels blueline this year.
Especially if you were a fan of the club in the 90s, there are a few faces that look like they’ve defied the aging process.
Kyle Masters is the son of defenceman Kevin Masters, who played for the Rebels in their inaugural 1992-93 season.
Mason Ward, another defender is nearly a spitting image of his father, Lance, also a defenceman who played 241 games for the Rebels in the late 90s.
Lance was a force on the Rebels blueline, amassing 69 points and 617 penalty minutes over four seasons.
The younger Ward, born in Florida while his dad was playing for the NHL’s Panthers, is well aware of the history and is hoping he can even capture a sliver of that success.
“It’s pretty cool, that’s obviously something I want to do one-day play pro hockey, so it’s pretty cool I guess to have someone who did that,” Ward said Thursday ahead of Rebels practice.
Mason doesn’t remember much about his Dad’s NHL career, which lasted 209 games with both the Panthers and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
A few years later, the Ward family ended up in Sweden and also spent a year in Germany while Lance was playing pro.
Mason has a few more memories of that, even playing a bit of hockey there.
“I don’t remember much. The hockey over there is way different. But it was cool. I don’t know what league I played in, but I had a team I played on,” Ward said.
Not only has Mason followed his Dad’s path to the Red Deer Rebels, but he’s also turning into quite the effective force on the blue line early in his WHL career.
“He’s a big, rangy defenceman, that obviously comes from good bloodlines,” said Rebels assistant coach Brad Flynn.
“He has a fortunate situation that he has a father that he can bounce a lot of emotions and questions off. He’s giving him sound advice, it’s just working hard every day and doing his job and he’s been really good with that.”
The younger Ward, 17, has a quiet confidence about him.
A hulking, six-foot-four, 194-pound defenceman he doesn’t like to say much, instead, letting his play do the talking and so far this season, it was come through in spades.
As a rookie, Ward has earned significant second pair minutes alongside Rebels 20-year-old veteran Ethan Sakowich. They function often as a shutdown combo against the opponent’s top group and our embracing the role.
“Things have been good so far. Starting to get more comfortable. Playing with Sakowich, he’s a really experienced guy so he’s been teaching me some stuff,” Ward said.
“It’s definitely a lot easier playing with someone that experience, just makes the game easier.”
The defenceman, who was mostly raised in Lloydminster went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft and was eventually listed by the Rebels. Through the prospect camp this summer and training camp, he’s steadily worked his way up the lineup and become a trustworthy option for Brent Sutter and the Rebels coaching staff.
“I feel like my play-making ability has been pretty good. I guess making easy plays in the d-zone and joining the rush,” said Ward, who has picked up four points in his first 10 WHL games.
Ward also picked up valuable experience last season, playing nine games as a 16-year-old in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for nine games. He scored a goal and added an assist during that span.
While he’s hoping to just provide a steady option on the Rebels blue line in his first season, he’s already exceeding expectations and should keep trending upward as the season progresses.
“I think the best advice for him is he has to continue to do what he’s been doing. Just try and do it more consistently,” said Flynn.
“That’s a big thing for every player and especially young defenceman. That’s a thing they struggle with is consistency. His best asset is he’s been consistent. The games where he’s had some rough shifts, he’s bounced back quickly. He brings a big physical element to our back-end as well.”
The Rebels host the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday at the Centrium at 7 p.m., before embarking on a six-game road swing.