The Red Deer Rebels made another step toward creating room for young players Tuesday.
GM/head coach Brent Sutter shipped 19-year-old blueliner Jacob Herauf to the Victoria Royals in exchange for a trio of draft picks. Red Deer picked up a second round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, a sixth round pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth round selection in 2022.
Herauf, heading into his fourth WHL season has played 173 games in a Rebels uniform. The Sherwood Park native collected three goals and 36 assists over that span. Last season, the six-foot, 194-pound defenceman has one goal and 16 assists in 66 games.
“Jake is a good player, but we made a decision here that we need to go younger and we need to give these young players an opportunity to play,” said Sutter, who indicated the Rebels will likely start the year with eight defencemen.
“These players are good young players and we have to make sure they play and they develop and are put into situations where they can do that. In Jake’s situation, he can go to a team that really wanted him and have an opportunity to have a different role than he would have had here, even just with ice time.”
Herauf was picked in the first round, 16th overall by the Rebels in 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
Red Deer currently has nine defencemen on the active roster, including Dawson Barteaux who is currently in camp with the Dallas Stars.
The Herauf move followed a trade Monday that sent 18-year-old forward Alex Morozoff to the Seattle Thunderbirds for a fifth round draft pick.
Sutter said Morozoff was passed by a few younger forwards at camp and was likely set to play a similar role to the bottom six role he played last season. Last year, the six-foot, 189-pound centre had 15 points in 64 games.
“It was a situation where those (young) players had outplayed him through training camp. Mo wouldn’t have been happy with his role, because it would have been the same as last year and he wanted an opportunity to play more,” Sutter said.
“We had to give him that chance to do so. You want trades to work out for everybody involved.”
Red Deer also released 18-year-old goalie Eric Ward from the active roster and he will join the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The moves trim the Rebels roster down to 25 players with two preseason games left on the docket. The home opener is Sept. 21 against Edmonton Oil Kings.