Signing a local product is something that’s always been important to RDP Kings hockey head coach Trevor Keeper.
So when it came down to filling his final forward slot it was an easy decision, adding former Red Deer Chiefs U18AAA star and Blackfalds Bulldogs standout Deegan Mofford.
“We want to carry 14 forwards and had an open spot so we were thinking of him along with a couple of others from Spruce Grove,” explained Keeper. “But he’s a local kid from Rocky Mountain House, and after we did our homework on him he’s a good fit.”
The only negative was that Keeper didn’t get an opportunity to see him play live.
“It’s hard to gauge a player when you don’t see him live, but I know some guys with Blackfalds (Bulldogs) and they had good things to say about him. He has size, a good shot and decent skater and he wanted to go to school here so it worked out well.”
Deegan, who finished last season with the Bulldogs in the AJHL, contacted Keeper and it went from there.
“He invited me for a tour and to meet … it’s a great facility and Trevor seems to connect with people so we kept talking and it worked out,” he said.
Mofford plans on being a chiropractor so will be at RDP for three years before looking to finish in the States.
At six-foot-three, 220-pounds, Mofford sees himself as a power forward who is good in the corners.
“I think I’m a good skater, see the ice well and have a good shot.”
All ingredients needed to fit in nicely in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
Deegan grew up in Rocky, playing at home until bantam (U15) when he switched to Red Deer, joining the Rebels Black in 2014-15. He played two years of bantam. He played in the Alberta Cup his final season, impressing with five goals and one assist in five games.
He was a third round pick (45th overall) in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft by the Kelowna Rockets.
He played three years with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs U18AAA squad, under head coach Doug Quinn, before moving to Kelowna for the 2019-20 season.
His WHL career was short-lived, playing only 11 games with no points.
“I didn’t get to play much and it just didn’t work out,” he explained.
Wanting to play more he joined the West Kelowna Warriors of the BC Junior League, finishing the 2019-20 season.
Covid ruined the following year and once he got back on the ice he had been traded to the Merritt Centennials.
But his time in Merritt was also short-lived, playing only four games.
“My mother passed away that summer, so I wanted to be back closer to home,” he explained. “It worked out as Doug (Quinn) and Al (Parada) contacted me about playing with Blackfalds.”
Deegan played four games with the Rocky Rams Junior B squad to “get in shape” before joining the Bulldogs. He played 22 games with the AJHL squad, finishing with six goals and 11 helpers.
“It was good. I knew Doug and the coaching staff from midget, so I knew their systems and what they wanted from me, so it was an easy transition,” he said.
Deegan has time to look back at his junior career with satisfaction.
“It was a big-time in my life, just a little disappointing with it being messed up with Covid,” he said. ‘That was tough. I probably missed close to 100 games because of it and a lot of practice time. It slowed everyone’s development for sure. You miss the higher-paced game, so you’re fighting to get back to that level.
“But you’re also really excited about being back playing.”
Deegan indicated being a chiropractor is in his blood.
“It’s on my mom’s side. She was a chiropractor, as is my grandfather and my sister will be as she has a year left in school,” he said.
Deegan is one of eight new faces to commit to the Kings this season.
He is among five new forwards to go with two defencemen — Tanner Sklaruk of St. Albert, and Tyson Janzen of Saskatoon, both of whom played for the Yorkton Terriers of the SJHL — and netminder Evan Fradette of St. Albert, who last played with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Fradette fits the Keeper mold of a big goalie at six-foot-four, 200-pounds.
“Goaltending is a tough position to recruit at times,” said Keeper. “We looked at six guys, narrowed it down to three and then had to wait as they were in their playoffs. But Evan was a good fit. He wanted to come to be closer to home and we play a lot of games in the Edmonton areas, so that’s a fit as well.”
Fradette had an outstanding midget career being the top goalie in the U18AAA league and MVP at the MAC’s tournament.
The other forwards on the list are Ryland McNinch of Turtleford, Sk., and Dylan Esau of Meadow Lake, Sk., both of whom played for the Battleford North Stars, Holden Knights of Warman, Sk., and La Ronge Ice Waters, and Nolan Doell of Martensville, Sk., and the Melford Mustangs.
Although he’s adding eight rookies at least, Keeper is pleased with the numbers.
“Last year we added 16 guys, so there was a big adjustment to make,” he said. “There was a gap in the age groups between the new guys and the older guys who were there before Covid. That’s not the easiest for team cohesion.
“This year we’re better off, back on the upswing again.”
Keeper believes he’s close to a final roster, although he did indicate there may be “a couple more announcements, but nothing firm.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org