With one eye on his diminishing cast of forwards, Red Deer Rebels vice-president of hockey operations/head coach Jesse Wallin cut a deal with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Monday.
Coming over from the T-Birds, in exchange for a conditional seventh-round selection in the 2010 Western Hockey League bantam draft, is 19-year-old defenceman Brad Haber, who will be in the Rebels lineup for tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting with the Regina Pats at the Centrium.
“He’s a veteran guy with some experience, kind of a fifth or sixth defenceman who’s a decent skater,” said Wallin. “We’ll get a good look at him over the next few weeks with guys out of the lineup.”
Most importantly, Haber also possesses a measure of versatility and will likely be used up front with the absence of three — and soon four — key Red Deer forwards. Andrej Kudrna will join Team Slovakia today for the upcoming world junior championship, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be with Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Challenge after Christmas and centres Nathan Green and Landon Ferraro are out with injuries.
The six-foot-three, 193-pound Haber scored three goals and added three assists in 26 games with Seattle this season. He appeared in 12 games with the T-Birds as a 17-year-old and scored once, and last season had two goals and 12 points in 59 games.
Basically, the product of Aldergrove, B.C., is in Red Deer on a trial basis. If he is no longer on the roster on Jan. 10, the Rebels will not surrender the draft pick.
If he earns a permanent position with the Rebels and can fill in adequately until the likes of Green and Ferraro return, Haber will provide the Rebels with a seventh defenceman once Nick Bell (ankle) comes off the shelf. Bell, who’s been out since October, could be ready for game action by mid-January.
“He (Bell) is ahead of schedule and we’re hoping he can start skating after the (Christmas) break,” said Wallin. “He wasn’t expected to be back on the ice until the middle of January.”
The Pats, meanwhile, are minus outstanding forward Jordan Eberle and top-notch defenceman Colten Teubert, both attending the Team Canada final selection camp. Eberle and Teubert won gold with Canada in the 2009 world junior championship in Ottawa.
However, the Pats still possess several forwards who demand attention, including Jordan Weal, Matt Strueby and the recently-acquired Carter Ashton and former Rebel Cass Mappin.
“No question, every game is a tough game, as we’ve said all along. There are no easy games in this league; anybody can beat anybody on any given night,” said Wallin. “We have to make sure we’re prepared to come and give a really good effort.”
The Rebels will play a home-and-home with the Edmonton Oil Kings — Friday in the provincial capital and Saturday at the Centrium — before embarking on a six-day Christmas break. The players will be back in Red Deer on Dec. 26 for an evening practice and will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes the following night.