When Grayson Pawlenchuk got to put on an Edmonton Oilers jersey at their rookie camp, he thought that would easily be the highlight of his off-season.
Until this week, when the 20-year-old was named the Red Deer Rebels captain.
“I was surprised at first. Also it was a big honour to get, and it’s a huge accomplishment for myself to be named captain of the team.
“It’s a very professional organization so it’s definitely pretty special,” Pawlenchuk said.
It’s been a rocky road the last season and a half for the veteran winger after battling through shoulder and ankle injuries and only playing 19 games in 2016-2017.
The news then, that his teammates had voted him as the captain for this season was something that the Androssan native received with great pride.
“Knowing that it was a team vote, that’s a huge confidence booster knowing that the team put me in place and wanted me to be the leader,” he said.
Associate coach Jeff Truitt said it’s been pretty obvious through training camp that the group looks up to Pawlenchuk and the coaching stuff expects big things from the veteran.
“Speaks to the character and the volume of what he’s got in that dressing room.
“He’s very well respected and he’s gone through the wars here for a number of years since he was 16,” Truitt said.
“He’s an extension of the coaching staff and obviously he conveys that to the players. He’s earned that respect and it’s great for our dressing room.”
Pawlenchuk spent almost a week at the Edmonton Oilers rookie camp and tournament earlier this summer, an experience that he believes will help him lead the Rebels in the long run.
“Being there with the hometown team was pretty cool,” he said.
”The professionalism of all the players and how they act. You see what the top end players do to get ready for games. Definitely being in that kind of atmosphere brings a lot of knowledge back.”
Lane Zablocki, Mason McCarty and Brandon Hagel will be alternate captains with the Rebels this season.
Adam Musil was the Rebels captain last year and former NHLers like Colby Armstrong, Jim Vandermeer, Colin Fraser and Brandon Sutter have sported the C over the team’s 26-year history.