With the Western Hockey League trade deadline around the corner on Jan. 10, the Red Deer Rebels wasted no time making moves.
On Thursday afternoon the club announced they traded for 17-year-old forward Ryker Singer from the Prince George Cougars.
In exchange, the Rebels sent rookie forward Arjun Bawa to Prince George, as well as a second and seventh-round selection in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
Owner, president, and general manager Brent Sutter said the move fills the needs of both teams while accommodating the players.
“We were looking to add some more skill and speed to our forwards,” Sutter said. “They were looking to add some size to their team.
“One kid is from Saskatchewan and Bawa is from B.C. Both kids were looking for possibly a change of scenery so it’s a good trade for both teams.”
The Paradise Hills, Sask product was taken by the Cougars in the first round at the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft 22nd overall.
He played his final year of U18 AAA for the Lloydminster Bobcats during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season scoring one goal and three assists in four games.
In his rookie season in 2021-22, the right shooting forward scored six goals and five assists for 11 points in 61 games. This season Ryker has produced three goals and 6 assists for nine points in 34 games.
Standing five feet 10 inches tall and 166 pounds, Sutter said Ryker has good hands, skates well, and is smart on the ice.
“He’s going to help our team but he’s still young. We think down the road he can be a big part of our team a year from now,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have done the trade if we didn’t think he’d come in and bring us what we’re looking for.”
Bawa was drafted by Red Deer in the second round of the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft and before he was dealt to the Cougars he climbed his way up from the fourth to the third line.
He scored two goals and three assists for five points in 34 games for Red Deer.
Sutter anticipates if there’s a deal that will make the team better before deadline day next Tuesday they’ll go through with it.
However, at this point, they’re satisfied with how the Rebels are built.
“The best trade that we have coming we didn’t have to give up any assets for is Ben King coming back,” Sutter explained. “We’re getting an elite player that’s going to be back in the next three weeks and he’s certainly going to add to that forward group too.”
The defensive core has been great for Red Deer with six defenceman contributing on the ice on a nightly basis. The seventh D-man Quentin Bourne, who is in his rookie year, has been in and out of the lineup as of late often filling in for injured players.
Sutter said they’re happy with how their backend has been constructed and expressed a desire to keep Bourne.
“There’s a reason why you keep him. Number one he’s going to be a pretty good player in this league and it’s a developmental year for him,” he said.
“He’s a seventh guy that has to play in so many games in a season so we’re happy with where our defence is.”
The Rebels have put their trust this season in a pair of rookie goaltenders 18-year-old Kyle Kelsey and 17-year-old Rhett Stoesser. Kelsey has appeared in more games posting 2.33 goals against average (GAA) and a .916 save percentage in 21 games.
Stoesser on the other hand has appeared in 15 games between the pipes with a 2.20 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
With Kelsey out week-to-week with a lower-body injury, Stoesser has started the last five games and has won his last eight starts.
“Look around the league, who’s had any better goaltending than ourselves? They’ve both played extremely well for us and there’s no need for us to go down a different path right now,” he said.
The Rebels have been a busy team in the trade market since the end of the 2021-22 season trading for multiple players. To this point they’ve traded for Craig Armstrong, Dwayne Jean Jr., Mats Lindgren, Kyle Kelsey, Marek Schneider, and now Ryker Singer.
They also acquired Logan Cunningham, Tayem Gislason, and Tanner Brown via trade this season but are no longer with the team.
Historically the last few seasons the Rebels have been active around deadline day.
In 2022, Red Deer picked up forward Jackson Van de Leest, who was important to the Rebels’ playoff run.
In the 2020-2021 season, there was no deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic but during the 2019-20 season, the Rebels traded away their captain Dawson Barteaux to the Winnipeg Ice for four years worth of draft picks.