It may be the middle of summer, but Red Deer Rebels owner/GM/head coach Brent Sutter isn’t sitting around with his feet up.
Sutter made a pair of moves Wednesday, which he hopes adds depth to his blueline and up front.
Sutter acquired the rights to 19-year-old defenceman Brandon Hickey from the Tri-City Americans for a fifth round draft pick in 2016 and a pair of conditional picks, then added 18-year-old forward Lane Pederson and a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 from the Seattle Thunderbirds for 18-year-old goaltender Taz Burman.
The six-foot-two, 190-pound Hickey, who was a third-round draft pick by the Calgary Flames in 2014, played last season for Boston University in Hockey East, finishing with six goals, 11 assists and 18 penalty minutes in 41 games. The previous two seasons he was with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL.
“Brandon is a top-end player, a top-end defenceman,” said Sutter, who won’t know until he talks with the Leduc native if he will be interested in joining the Rebels.
“It was an opportunity to pick up a very good hockey player for a reasonable price,” added Sutter, who will lose he fifth-round selection even if Hickey doesn’t sign with the Rebels.
“It was a situation where we got the opportunity to get his rights. Without them we have no chance to talk with him.”
Sutter has talked with his parents, the Calgary Flames and Hockey Canada.
Hickey is in Calgary attending the U20 camp as part of the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase.
“It depends on what Hockey Canada thinks of him, but in the past it was difficult for a player from the NCAA to make the Canadian (junior) team because they don’t play the number of games the kids in junior do,” said Sutter. “If he was in Red Deer it would give him a chance to play those extra games. But we’ll see.”
Sutter won’t talk with Hickey until at least today, and likely later, as he played for Team Canada against the Russians Wednesday.
“I don’t want to bother him while he’s playing, but we’ll sit down after and see where it goes,” said the veteran coach. “We’ll let him know where we’re at and where we think he fits in with the team. I know he liked his year at Boston University and he had a good year. I don’t know any more than that at this point.
“But as I said we now have an opportunity to talk with him and possibly add him to the roster.”
Pederson played last season with the Thunderbirds, finishing with eight goals and 12 assists in 63 games. But those totals may be deceiving.
“He started the year on their fourth line and slowly moved up,” said Sutter.
“The first half he didn’t get a lot of playing time but the second half he played well. He finished with 20 points, not bad considering he was behind several guys and didn’t get as much playing time.
“Our scouts liked what they saw. He also attended the Anaheim (NHL) camp and they liked him a lot.
“He is a good two-way player and we felt it was a good opportunity to add to our forward depth and add a player who could be around for a couple of years.”
The six-foot-one, 195-pound Pederson is a native of Saskatoon and played two seasons with the Saskatoon Blazers midget AAA team, In 2012-13 he had 14 goals and 21 assists in 38 games, then added 21 goals and 20 helpers in 37 games the following season.
Burman leaves the Rebels after two seasons as backup goaltender. He posted a 3.85 goals-against-average and an .884 save percentage in 17 games during his rookie season and a 3.08 and .890 marks in 21 games last year.
Sutter felt he would likely be a backup again this season.
“It was tough to trade Taz, but it would have been tough on him to come back for a third year as backup. That wasn’t fair to him and with Seattle looking for a goaltender to be a starter it’s good for him to get that chance.”
Rebels starter Rylan Toth (2.84, .904) will be back with Trevor Martin looking to grab a backup spot along with 16-year-old Dawson Weatherill.
Sutter has been attending the Summer Showcase and got an opportunity to watch forward Michael Spacek, who they picked up in this year’s import draft.
The 18-year-old from the Czech Republic was a fourth-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets.
“I liked what I saw … he’s very talented and skilled and he’ll definitely help us.”
Sutter also said he has a signed international transfer contract and Spacek will be in camp.
While the latest moves add depth and talent to the roster, Sutter may not be finished as he continues to work on the roster in preparation for the WHL season and hosting the Memorial Cup.
“We’re comfortable but if we find a move that will make us better we’ll definitely look at it,” he said.