Just because the WHL season is over and players are isolated all across Western Canada, by no means have the Red Deer Rebels lost touch.
While the players typically leave Red Deer and return home when the WHL season ends, with the bizarre way this one finished, they’ve been in constant contact over the last few weeks.
“We’re talking every day for sure. I touch base with a few more guys, just to make sure everybody is doing good,” said Red Deer product Josh Tarzwell, who didn’t have to travel far for his isolation stay.
“It can’t hurt, everybody is probably bored out of their minds anyway.”
Over the weekend, the Rebels also announced their team awards on social media, which are typically presented at the final regular-season home game. For Tarzwell, 19, that meant being recognized as the team’s most underrated player.
He went from a career-high 11 goals in 2018-2019 to a bursting-the-barn-door open year of 32 goals this past season. He said one of the biggest challenges last year was the young roster.
“It was definitely a learning curve. I’ve never been on a team that young, four years in the league. I learned a lot, I learned as much from them as hopefully, they did from me,” Tarzwell said of the season as a whole.
“I played with (Jayden) Grubbe and (Jaxsen) Wiebe, both awesome players and couldn’t be happier to play with them. They’re going to continue to help me develop and I’ll help them. I feel like both of them are going to score 20 something goals next year.”
Tarzwell is living the isolation life like the rest of us these days, figuring out ways to get his offseason training in from home. Whether it’s a game of cards with his mom when he wakes up or a trip on the quad with the dog, he’s just finding ways to keep himself occupied.
“Just trying to stay busy. I live just outside of town so I’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as I can,” he said.
In addition to Tarzwell’s honour, the team also handed out eight other awards.
Ethan Sakowich, a rock on the blueline for the Rebels all season long, collected four awards from the team. He was voted co-humanitarian of the year along with Cam Hausinger, best defenceman, team MVP and the player’s player, picked by his teammates. Sakowich was named captain after the Dawson Barteaux trade, but Tarzwell said his leadership was really evident from the beginning of the year.
“He won the player’s choice award, so everyone on the team loved him. When you get a guy that’s been there that long, it’s tough to step in as captain with that little time left. Everybody already saw him as a leader anyway, he did a great job. I miss him anyway, that’s for sure,” said Tarzwell.
“He would do everything he could to help everybody. That’s just the kind of guy he was. He was so nice, everybody loved him.”
Rookie defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, in his first season in North America, was selected as the team’s rookie of the year. The Helsinki, Finland product posted five goals and 14 assists in 61 games this season. Sedoff was also ranked 50th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings.
Arshdeep Bains, in his second full season with the Rebels, ended up as the team’s leading scorer. The 18-year-old had a career year with 18 goals and 33 assists in 63 games. Bains had just 18 points in 63 games in the 2018-19 campaign.
With the Rebels returning almost their entire lineup next season, Tarzwell is very optimistic about their chances in the Central Division next year.
“Have to continue to help the young guys grow. We’re going to have a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds. I fully expect to be winning. Almost every game,” he said.
As for his own expectations, Tarzwell is clear and direct. He wants to be a plus-player and earn a pro contract like former teammates Reese Johnson and Brandon Hagel did two seasons ago.
“You’d see every day, Johnny was in the gym, how hard he and Hags worked on and off the ice. Johnny was one of the most fit guys you’ll ever meet and he’s obviously one of the best players to ever play in Red Deer,” Tarzwell said.
Really just going to try and be the best that I can be. Not going to do stuff that I’m not good at. Obviously, I’m going to try and be creative, just be the best that I can.”