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.”

Just Posted

Spring book sale this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians can get lost in a world of inexpensive books this… Continue reading

Central Alberta wildlife rehab facility not prepared to take orphaned bear cubs, yet

It’s been about eight years since the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was… Continue reading

Regional sewage line moving ahead despite concerns

Cost sharing among concerns of municipalities involved in Sylvan Lake-to-Red Deer sewage line

Red Deer family who lost everything in house fire begin rebuilding

Couple had moved into north-end home only two days before basement fire

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by Maxime Bernier

MONTREAL — Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by former Tory… Continue reading

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Riley Nash step up in Game 4 win over Leafs

Bruins 3 Maple Leafs 1 TORONTO — The Boston Bruins didn’t need… Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling corks B.C. vintners’ hopes for free trade of Canadian wines

VANCOUVER — The Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding interprovincial trade laws… Continue reading

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

MONTREAL — Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month