Trevor Keeper’s blue-line makeover is complete.
The Red Deer College Kings men’s hockey coach added former Manitoba Junior Hockey League defenceman of the year Trevor Butler from the Dauphin Kings this past week.
The five-foot-11, 185 pounder joins former Red Deer Optimist Rebels rearguards Nick Bell and Joel Topping who also committed this off-season.
“Last year when we had a brand new team with 25 players, we had a bit of a drop off (on defence), there’s no question, after our top four defencemen,” said Keeper. “We wanted to make sure we had more depth with our defencemen this year.”
Butler scored 58 points (seven goals, 51 assists) in 60 games with the Kings in 2012-13 and was named the Manitoba league’s top defenceman. Last year he scored 37 points (6-31-37) in 62 games and was named a second team all-star. He helped the Kings advance all the way to the RBC Cup in Vernon this past season.
Keeper says he had interest from NCAA school in the U.S., but a desire to stay in Canada played into his decision to come to Red Deer. It also didn’t hurt that his defensive partner and roommate from 2012-13 already wears black and green.
“Shamus (Graham) was a big help in recruiting his friend to come here,” said Keeper. “But he’s a small town farm kid from Souris, Man., and he didn’t really have any interest in going down south.”
He also played with RDC forward and Sylvan Lake product Jeff Archibald in Dauphin for three years.
Butler will find a home on the Kings’ power play and likely a top four pairing. Where exactly he fits in will sort itself out in training camp in September.
The blue-line should be a lot deeper this year than the Kings’ return to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association this past season where they had moved forward Jared Kambeitz back to fill in holes.
The six-foot-one, 190-pound Bell spent the last two seasons playing with the Mount Royal University Cougars, after spending three years with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and one with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels.
Topping spent the last two season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. The six-foot-one, 195-pound was a second round pick for Lethbridge in the 2010 bantam draft, but quit in December this to start his teaching degree at RDC.
Keeper has not ignored his situation up front.
He’s added Red Deer centreman Connor Hartley (six-foot, 180 pounds), who spent most of the last four years with the Oilers, and rugged winger Tyler Burkholtz (five-foot-11, 195 pounds) from the B.C. Hockey League — he was named the Trail Smoke Eaters’ most valuable player in 2012-13.
Keeper says he is not done recruiting and may be adding one more player before the week is out.
It has been a different recruiting season for the RDC head coach this summer as compared to last year when he was putting together the Kings’ initial team. RDC still made it to the ACAC semifinals, beating the MacEwan University Griffins in the first round.
“I’ve been able to be selective with my recruits that we’ve gone after, we’ve got just about everybody we were hoping for,” said Keeper. “We wanted to try and focus on bringing about six players, and real quality ones that will upgrade us … With recruiting I’m going after players that are going to make us better at every position.”