Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe missed most of last season but could still hear his name called during the 2021 NHL Draft. (File photo by Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe missed most of last season but could still hear his name called during the 2021 NHL Draft. (File photo by Advocate Staff)

Pair of Red Deer Rebels eagerly anticipate 2021 NHL Draft

First round of 2021 NHL Draft starts Friday night

Both Jayden Grubbe and Kyle Masters have been dreaming of this weekend since the first time they laced up a pair of hockey skates.

After what was likely the most unique year of their hockey careers, the two Red Deer Rebels are eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, which starts Friday with the first round and rounds two through seven on Saturday.

“A little bit of everything. Just anxious to see what happens and definitely excited to have it happen,” said Grubbe.

“It’s been in the back of my mind the whole summer, so it’ll be nice to have it and celebrate it and then get ready to go right after it happens and not have to worry about it anymore.”

The Rebels captain only suited up for five games last season because of a knee injury that cost him the entire year – but is still all but assured to be selected Saturday.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie has Grubbe ranked 87th in his draft rankings, while The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has him ranked 96th.

The six-foot-three, 200-pound centre, who is ranked 63rd by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters said he’s been in contact with several NHL teams and will have all his attention on the draft over the weekend.

“Throughout the last month or two, there’s been quite a bit of communication… so it’s been pretty busy,” he said.

The Calgary native also made positive strides in the last few weeks with rehab from a torn ACL, which he suffered in a game on March 13 against Lethbridge.

Grubbe explained the first few weeks recovering from the injury were tough, but he’s recently got back on the ice skating and that has helped a great deal mentally.

“It’s coming along, feeling more normal every day now. It’s nice to be back on the ice. It’s getting there,” said Grubbe, who will wear a brace on his knee for at least next season.

“The first month or so was pretty slow on crutches and stuff. Since then it’s moved pretty quick. It’s nice to be back in the gym with my trainer and my buddies. The last little bit has been a lot easier mentally than the first little bit for sure.”

Masters, on the other hand, is less of a sure thing to hear his name called Saturday. He’s ranked 93rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting but had a productive year with 10 assists in 20 games as a minutes leader on the Rebels blueline.

Like Grubbe, he’s been in contact with a number of NHL organizations and is hopeful that he’ll be selected Saturday.

“It’s definitely exciting, counting down the days. It kinda feels like Christmas almost where you’re just waiting for everything to happen,” said the six-foot, 175-pound defenceman.

Masters added that even if he doesn’t hear his own name called, purely as a hockey fan he’ll be tuned in over the weekend.

“I’ll watch. Playing hockey you have friends and buddies whether it’s in Edmonton or you grew up playing against them,” he said.

“Whether it’s for me or for them, it’ll be a cool experience. I’m definitely going to watch.”

Regardless of the weekend’s outcome, both Rebels veterans are looking forward to the 2021-22 WHL season, which will be played in front of fans for the first time since March of 2019.

“It’ll be nice to be in front of a full crowd and get back and play a full season. That’ll be nice, hopefully, get back and win some games with the guys,” Grubbe said.

“Looks like our group this year will be a competitive team so we should be able to go on a good run.”

Added Masters: “It’s great to have normal hockey back with fans and we get to see our billets again which is huge. Team-wise I’m really excited, I think we’re going to take a big step.”

The Rebels will open training camp in early September and will play their first preseason game on Sept. 11 in Edmonton.

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Red Deer Rebels defenceman Kyle Masters returned to the lineup earlier this month after missing nearly three months with a lower-body injury. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Kyle Masters battles with Carter Souch for a puck late in the first period of WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)