Red Deer Rebels forward Austin Schellenberg nearly broke his team out of a slump last weekend, when he fired a breakaway shot just off the crossbar.
That’s just the way the breaks have gone for the Rebels lately including one of their up-and-coming young forwards. Schellenberg, 17, is just 15 games into his WHL career but after being used sparingly throughout the first two months of the season, including just one game in November, the Grande Prairie native has played every contest in December.
“First few games were a little rough, these last five or six games have been good, getting a lot of ice time, it’s been fun,” he said.
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt likes what he sees on the offensive end of the ice from Schellenberg and only expects to see improvement from talented winger.
“He’s one of those offensive guys, he’s a dynamic player. He’s had some chances at key times– in overtime he’s come close, he’s hit the pipe a couple times. He’s a shifty, offensive-type player and likes to have the puck on his stick,” he said.
Schellenberg’s first and only WHL goal came against the Calgary Hitmen at home on Dec. 2 and from there, his confidence has started to build.
The six-foot, 155-pound winger, who still has some filling out to do has slowly, become a reliable bottom six option for Red Deer, with a revolving door of linemates. Schellenberg said that’s taught him how to elevate his game and bring a different dynamic.
“It’s been fun, everybody brings something different to the table, just nice to play with everybody,” he said.
In two years of Midget AAA hockey with the Grande Prairie Storm, the quiet and soft-spoken teen had 10 goals each season. Down the road, he’s expected to bring that flair to the Rebels but right now he’s learning how to play a checking role against some of the WHL’s toughest and strongest forwards.
“Just want to get out there and get a few more opportunities so I can put up some numbers,” he said. “Just watching our older guys, it helps a lot, they do a lot of stuff right and they get a lot of chances on net, do what they do.”
Truitt added that for a skill player like Schellenberg, after confidence comes the ability to understand how to create space and offence.
“He’s got that skill set. Now, he’s gotta be able to read pressure and get away from it and all the other technical stuff about getting pucks to the net,” Truitt said.
“You can have all the skill on the outside, if you’re not going to get the puck to the net or inside the dots, it’s not going to work. He’s got that capability and confidence with the puck.”