The Red Deer Rebels stayed mostly within the province during the Western Hockey League bantam draft Thursday in Edmonton, selecting a highly-touted defenceman and a handful of talented and productive forwards in the process.
The most prominent of the eight homegrown products is defenceman Matt Dumba of Calgary, whom the Rebels nabbed fourth overall. A trio of rearguards — Derrick Pouliot (first overall to the Portland Winter Hawks), Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw Warriors) and Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings) — were the first three picks of the draft, leaving Dumba available at No. 4.
For Rebels vice-president of hockey operations Randy Peterson and senior scout Dale McMullin, who were hoping to snag a top-end blueliner, selecting the 14-year-old graduate of the major bantam Calgary Bronks was a no-brainer.
“He can run a power play, but he also brings a physical presence with his rugged style,” Peterson said of the five-foot-11, 165-pound Dumba, who was ranked No. 1 by International Scouting Services (www.isshockey.com) for the bantam draft. “Matt patterns his game after Dion Phaneuf in terms of his physical play and he has a rocket for a shot. He pretty much brings everything to the table.”
Indeed, Dumba is a huge fan of Phaneuf’s high-impact style, as well as a fervent follower of the former Rebels star and current Calgary Flames thoroughbred.
“Yeah, I’d say that’s the one guy I try to be like,” he said, when reached at his Calgary home.
Dumba was tickled by the first report that he was Red Deer bound, and was even more grateful when he learned that the Rebels had also selected a pair of Airdrie Xtreme scorers in Mason Burr and Joel Hamilton, both of whom are well-known by the Calgary product.
“I was just so excited. I was hoping I was going to go to a good team in the draft and it worked out great. I’m just so happy that I got picked by this franchise,” said Dumba, who turns 15 in July and won’t be eligible to play full-time in the WHL until 2010.
“The Rebels didn’t have a very good season this year but they have some good guys to work with now, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and I think they picked up some really key guys today. I’m friends with some of them. It’s a very good group and it looks good that way moving forward.”
McMullin is confident the Rebels have a blue-chip keeper in Dumba, as much for his work ethic as his talent.
“He’s a coast-to-coast guy who plays with a ton of energy. He competes and works his ass off every shift,” said McMullin, in reference to the Alberta Major Bantam League South Division MVP and top defenceman who scored a team high 20 goals last season, to go with 18 assists and 96 minutes in penalties in 33 games.
The Rebels looked to the Western Canada bantam champion Xtreme for their second- and fourth-round picks (Red Deer owed Brandon its third-round selection due to the 2007 trade for Mark Louis), taking forwards Burr of Airdrie and Cochrane native Hamilton 27th and 71st overall.
“Burr has great speed and a hard shot. He’s actually a kid we had ranked in the top 10, but that’s the way it goes, everyone has a different opinion,” said Peterson.
“He’s a guy who competes really hard and thinks the game. Plus, he’s off a championship team, and that certainly means a lot.”
McMullin also expressed surprise that Burr (31-27-58 in 33 games) was passed over in the first round.
“I don’t know what happened there. He’s a good-sized (five-foot-10) kid who skates well. He’s not overly creative, but he’s a power forward who can make a play. He’s going to be a good player down the road.”
Hamilton’s brother, Wacey, is an abrasive forward with the Medicine Hat Tigers and the younger sibling plays a similar style, said McMullin.
“Joel is an all-around, character type of player,” said McMullin. “We think he has a little higher skill level than his brother and he’s a bit of a pain in the ass to play against. He has good puck skills and he could be a captain down the road. He definitely has those character qualities in him.”
The Rebels continued to play the Alberta angle by picking centre Marc McCoy of Edmonton in the fifth round, 93rd overall. McCoy racked up 60 points (21g,39a) in 33 regular-season games with the Southgate Lions.
“He’s a long-legged kid with a real good compete level,” said McMullin. “He has good sense of the game and he has good hands. His stride is maybe a bit hitched and it needs to lengthen, but he works hard enough to get where he wants to go. We watched him quite a bit this winter. He’s a guy who will battle to make a play.”
With their remaining seven selections, the Rebels took defencemen Lucas Grayson of Port Hardy, B.C., and Davin Stener of Fort Saskatchewan, goaltender Bolton Pouliot of Calgary, and forwards Chase McMurphy of Chestermere, Brooks Maxwell of Raymond, Nikolas Olsson of Escondido, Calif., and Tyler Bateman of Kelowna.
Following are capsule quotes from McMullin regarding Red Deer’s sixth-to 10th-round picks, with height and statistics if available:
Lucas Grayson (six foot), sixth round, 116th overall
“He played midget A hockey in Port Hardy and will probably play with the North Island regional midget team next season. Lucas had a good BC Cup in Salmon Arm until he was injured, so we didn’t get to see a lot of him. But we took a flyer on this kid because we feel he has a chance to play with us down the road. He’s a solid kid who thinks the game and can make a good first pass.”
Chase McMurphy (six foot), sixth round, 131st overall
19-11-30, 87 PIMs in 26 games with Okotoks Oilers
“He broke both of his wrists over the past year and he was a player who got more involved prior to the injuries. So he has to regain that mindset where he can be a little more rugged. He’s a big kid who could be a good player in a year or two once he gets it all figured out. Chase is a good skater who can drive wide, and he has some skill.”
Davin Stener (five-foot-nine), seventh round, 137th overall
Played in 2009 AMBHL all-star game
“He’s a smaller guy, a (current Rebels defenceman) Cullen Morin type who probably has a little better feet than Cullen at the same age. But he’s the same kind of player, a guy who reads the ice well and when teamed up with a bigger D-man can be effective.”
Bolton Pouilot, (six foot), seventh round, 140th overall
10-3-2, 2.47 GAA, .916 save percentage with Calgary Royals Gold
“He’s a big goaltender who has good agility and moves well in the net. He’s not afraid to come out of the net to stop pucks and set them up for his D-men or throw them up the wall to a forward. He’s a good skater for a goaltender, he has some real athletic abilities.”
Brooks Maxwell (five-foot-nine), eighth round, 159th overall
18-29-47 in 33 games with Lethbridge Golden Hawks
“He’s a kid who started a little slow last fall but he got stronger and was playing really well toward the end of the year. He has good feet, a good set of hands and can make a play down low . . . by the end of the season he was going into the greasy areas. We think he has a really good upside to his game. Brooks is a nephew of (former WHL and NHL player and coach) Bryan Maxwell ”
Nikolas Olsson (five-foot-11), ninth round, 181st overall
“Jesse (Rebels head coach Wallin) saw him at our recent (WHL) camp in Anaheim and Randy saw him play in San Jose. Between the two of them it was decided that he’s a guy who has a chance to play with us. He’s a kid with good skills. Recruiting him could be the only problem moving forward.”
Tyler Bateman (five-foot-nine), 10th round, 203rd overall
“He has a good set of hands and a good skill level. We liked him all winter long. There are two teams in Kelowna and he played on the second team. He wasn’t called up during the season, so we thought there might be off-ice issues, but there weren’t any. It turns out they carded too many kids with the top team.”
Contact Greg Meachem at email@example.com