Pufahl not letting shoulder hold him back at prospects camp

Less than a year after suffering a serious shoulder injury at the Red Deer Rebels main camp, Matt Pufahl is insistent that the joint is stronger than ever.

2008 fourth round bantam draft pick Matt Pufahl has responded well to shoulder surgery that caused him to miss five months of last season.

2008 fourth round bantam draft pick Matt Pufahl has responded well to shoulder surgery that caused him to miss five months of last season.

Less than a year after suffering a serious shoulder injury at the Red Deer Rebels main camp, Matt Pufahl is insistent that the joint is stronger than ever.

The injury occurred when the 16-year-old Saskatoon native was involved in a scrap early in camp. He had an MRI on the shoulder in Red Deer and a month later underwent surgery for a torn labrum.

Based on his performance in the Rebels spring prospects camp Friday and Saturday at the Arena, Pufahl’s skills certainly haven’t eroded despite the fact he missed most of last season while recuperating.

“I’m feeling good. My shoulder is all better and I’ve been able to train,” the Rebels’ fourth-round selection in the 2008 WHL bantam draft said Saturday. “Actually, I think it’s stronger than before. The shoulder must have been a little loose before so it might have been just a matter of time before the injury happened. It’s better that it happened now as opposed to when I’m 20.”

Pufahl was on the shelf for five months after the surgery, returning to the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts just prior to the end of the regular season. He scored four goals and added three assists in the final four regular-season games and contributed six points (2-4) in 11 playoff outings.

“We had a good run in the playoffs and I was able to finish the season off well,” he said. “I was a little leery of the shoulder for the first couple of games, but after that it wasn’t an issue. It’s 100 per cent now. I thought I finished the season strong and hopefully I can continue that into next season.”

Regardless of the injury, Pufahl was likely in tough to crack the Rebels’ lineup last year. But now, at just over six-foot one and 185 pounds, he’s in a good position to make a run at regular employment in the fall.

“I feel I’m ready to play at this level,” he said. “I got some good ice time this spring and improved my game that much more. Hopefully I can make the team when I’m back (for main camp in August).

“Nothing is promised yet. The coaches just want me to show up at main camp in good shape. I’ll work hard this summer and I really want to be here next season. I’d love to live here. This is a great city and it’s only five and a half hours from Saskatoon.”

Pufahl will visit the gym every day during the summer in an attempt to add a few more pounds to his frame.

“I’ll be lifting weights a lot and paying attention to my nutrition,” he said. “I want to get up to just over 190 pounds before training camp.”

If Pufahl proves he’s a keeper, the Rebels will be getting a puck-moving rearguard who’s also aware of his defensive responsibilities.

“I think I‘m an offensive defenceman. I like to join the rush when I can, but I make sure I have a forward covering me,” he said.

Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin was impressed with Pufahl during the first two days of prospects camp and is looking forward to seeing the defenceman in August.

“He’s really starting to fill out. If he can put a few more pounds on by training camp he’ll be a pretty big, strong kid,” said Wallin. “There’s an opportunity for him to come into camp and earn a spot. He’s certainly a guy we think a lot of.

“He didn’t play a lot of hockey last year due to the injury but when he came back he played very well. He had a strong finish to the year and now it’s important for him to have a good summer of training and to be on the ice as much as he can. He has to return with the attitude that he’s going to make our hockey team. He’s a guy who can skate and he has the ability to move the puck, to get it up to the forwards. We’re excited about him.”

The Rebels prospects camp concludes today with a two-hour session starting at 10:45 a.m.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com