With Keaton Sorensen waiting for the seminal moment of his WHL career, it wasn’t that long ago that he had another.
As a youngster, Sorensen, a Red Deer minor hockey product had the privilege of skating on the Centrium ice with the Rebels during warm-up and got to stand on the blueline during the anthem.
The player he stood beside? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“Got to skate around the ice before O’ Canada. I was on the line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colin Archer, it was really cool,” he recalled.
Now 17, Sorensen is hoping that he can summon some of the magic “Nuge” produced during his career and earn a roster spot on the 2019-20 version of the Rebels.
He conjured up some of it last season, scoring 33 goals in 42 games with the Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA team in the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League.
“It helped my confidence a lot. I just have to keep that scoring touch going. It wasn’t really a surprise, I knew I could do it, just had to execute,” said the five-foot-nine, 150-pound centre.
Sorensen, who was listed by the Rebels last summer is part of a big crop of young forwards battling for spots on the opening day roster of his hometown team. The opportunity to make the team he grew up watching is not lost on the young forward.
“It would be a dream come true because I always grew up watching the Rebels and to think maybe one day I can play here is awesome,” he said.
Although a goal scorer in Midget AAA, the Red Deer minor hockey product figures himself more of a gritty forward willing to mix it up. That’s how he thinks he’ll have to play if he wants to be on the Centrium ice come Sept. 21 for the Rebels home opener.
“I feel like I can make plays out of any situation and I can finish the puck most times I guess when I get the opportunity,” he said.
Beyond the returning group of forwards such as Cam Hausinger, Brett Davis, Chris Douglas, Josh Tarzwell, Arshdeep Bains, Zach Smith and Alex Morozoff, there is room for plenty of up and coming talent.
First-round 2018 WHL Bantam Draft pick Jayden Grubbe figures to have a spot and from there it will be a dog fight with the other 17-year-olds. Sorensen, Jaxsen Wiebe, Ethan Rowland, Dallon Melin, Jordan Borysiuk and Jace Isley are all battling for those final roster spots. Blake Sydlowski, who turns 18 in October, is also on the cusp.
All that is of little concern to Sorensen, who is laser-focused on making the team.
“I hope to put my best foot forward and that’s the best I can do. I had a slow start to camp and I thought I had to step it up. I have to keep going and keep escalating,” he said.
The Rebels will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday at the Centrium with puck drop set for 7 p.m.