Miller time: now you see him…

The Red Deer Rebels will be mighty tickled if Jesse Miller can weave the same type of magic on the ice as off during his rookie Western Hockey League rookie season.

The Red Deer Rebels will be mighty tickled if Jesse Miller can weave the same type of magic on the ice as off during his rookie Western Hockey League rookie season.

The 18-year-old Winnipeg product is an amateur magician, capable of performing coin and card tricks that defy reason.

“I’ve been doing it all my life, I’m been watching (magician/illusionists) Criss Angel and David Blaine for years,” Miller said on Wednesday, following a Rebels practice session at the Collicutt Centre.”

Whether it’s learning tricks from friends, the internet or from books . . . I like to pick up little things and then practise and learn them.

“It also goes along with juggling. I’m a pretty accomplished juggler, so if this whole hockey thing doesn’t turn out I can always join the circus in some sort of clown gig. Right now hockey is the main priority, but if I can entertain the guys with some tricks and juggling, it’s all fun.”

Miller left his box of tricks back home in Winnipeg, but needs only a looney and/or a deck of cards to show off.

“I can also get into levitation . . . just a whole whack of stuff,” he said. “I have a tool box full of (props). I could go about five hours with straight magic tricks.”

Truth be told, it was Miller’s hockey hands that impressed Randy Peterson to the point that the Rebels director of scouting/player development during the summer invited the six-foot-one, 175-pound forward to the Rebels training camp.

“He called me four or five times over the summer. He wanted to make sure I was coming to camp because I wasn’t listed by the Rebels,” said Miller. “I was also invited to camp by Saskatoon and Calgary, but Red Deer was the most interested. They kept phoning me and it was clear they wanted me. I thought, ‘yeah, Red Deer is a good program.’”

Peterson had words of encouragement for Miller when the Rebels camp opened.

“He came up to me and said ‘if you just play your game here, skate like you can and play like you did all last season, there should be a spot for you here.’ So far, I’ve done that,” said Miller.

Early on in camp, Miller wondered if he would adjust to the quicker pace.

“After the first skate, I went ‘whoa, is this what I’m going to have to get used to?’” I was a little shaky, was gripping my stick a little hard,” he said. “This was my first WHL camp. The first skate was shaky but after main camp I got used to the pace and really felt like I belonged out there during the preseason. I felt good.”

Miller appeared in 41 regular-season games with the midget AAA powerhouse Winnipeg Wild last season, scoring 20 goals and adding 30 assists in the process. The Wild finished 41-3 and captured the Manitoba title before falling to the Saskatoon Contacts in the western regionals.

“We had a great season. We didn’t finish as well as we wanted to but I was able to put up some points,” he said. “I think it’s really important to have a good season before you come to any junior camp. Having a great midget season was huge for me.”

Miller realizes he’ll be in tough to replicate his midget numbers as a Rebels rookie.

“I’m just going to try and play as well as I can defensively and offensively,” he said. “If I have a great offensive game I will want to match it with a great defensive game as well. If I continue to work hard good things will come. I’ll try not to take a shift off . . . just play the body and work hard.”

Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin is impressed with Miller’s physical dimensions and willingness to play in the high-contact areas.

“His work ethic and his size, those are the things he has going for him,” said Wallin. “He’s just a hard-working, gritty guy who we think is just going to continue to improve here as he continues to play at this level.

“He’s a bit raw and yet all the guys who come into this league are. He’s a big guy, he skates well and he has an element of grit to his game. We feel he will be a real good player for us down the road.”

The Rebels bench boss also likes Miller’s eagerness to learn the defensive side of the game.

“He’s learning to play the game at both ends of the rink, but he’s also a guy we hope will be able to bring some offence,” said Wallin. “He’s not afraid to go to the net and he has some skill to him and hopefully some finish. He had a good year in midget AAA last year and came in with the attitude that he was going to make our team. He and Bleacks (Conner Bleackley) both had a good camp and if those guys can produce for you it shows the importance of depth.”

Miller, who played all six preseason games — scoring once — and will likely be in the Red Deer lineup for the regular-season opener on Friday against the visiting Calgary Hitmen, clearly understands the importance of performing in both zones, particularly at the major junior level.

“Defence is just as important, if not more, than offence,” he said. “I have to work on my defensive game. I’ve kind of struggled with that in my career but I feel I can learn a lot here. The whole coaching staff is great.”

If the right winger didn’t make the grade with the Rebels, he was prepared to head back to Manitoba, to the junior A Winkler Flyers.

“Actually, me being here is almost like the back-up plan,” he said. “I had already signed with Winkler. I had everything set up, billets . . . everything. They were really good to me that way.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council will have to wait longer to hear back from administration on possible alternative sites — if the homeless shelter is moved from Red Deer downtown. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alternative sites for homeless shelter will be explored by the City of Red Deer

Council gave administration more time to return with a report

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
O’Chiese man found not guilty of 2019 stabbing death of Red Deer man

Quentin Strawberry found guilty of assaulting murdered man’s common-law partner

(Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer property tax bills are in the mail

Red Deer 2021 tax notices are on their way Red Deer property… Continue reading

"They’re angry. They’re frustrated,” Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says of his members, whose pension assets have been transferred to a provincial Crown corporation. (Photo contributed)
Only 17% of Albertans support draft curriculum: teachers’ association

Fewer than one-in-five Albertans support the provincial government’s draft K-6 curriculum, says… Continue reading

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

‘Dear Future Children’ takes top audience prize at Hot Docs film festival

FILE - Signage promoting the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards and NBC appears in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 5, 2020. NBC said Monday that will not air the Golden Globes in 2022. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

Amid outcry, NBC says it will not air Golden Globes in 2022

RCMP officers work at the scene after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. Homicide investigators expect to release more information about a deadly shooting in Burnaby on Saturday that police say could be linked to a similar slaying at Vancouver's airport just one day later. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

A Palestinian protester does a handstand next to a fire which was set on a road during clashes with Israeli police near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City, Sunday, May 9, 2021. Israeli police have been clashing with Palestinian protesters almost nightly in the holy city's worst religious unrest in several years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Hamas launches new attack on Israel after Jerusalem clashes

Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet holds a news conference before Question Period, Monday, May 10, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

NDP join Liberals to cut short debate, move pandemic election bill forward

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question as he speaks with reporters on Parliament Hill, Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Ottawa. Singh says he believes there's a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

Most Read