Just over a week removed from their WHL season ending, the Red Deer Rebels named their captain for 2018-19.
It’s an unprecedented move by the team, but one Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter felt was necessary given the changing environment and character of the player they chose.
Reese Johnson will wear the ‘C’ for Red Deer next year and Sutter explained why the decision was an easy one to make.
“We’ve never done this before. Communication is such a big part of the way things are now, between players and staff,” Sutter said.
“I think it’s another link that we have through the summer with our captain to be able to communicate with the players. He would do it anyway, but now it will be from the guy they know will be their captain next year.”
Johnson will enter his fourth and final season in the WHL next year and was a key contributor in the playoffs this season with six points in five games.
Even more so, the 19-year-old, Saskatoon, Sask. native was named the Red Deer Advocate players’ award winner this year– an award voted on by the players. With 23 goals and 16 assists in 72 games, Johnson was also the team’s Darcy Robinson most under-rated player award recipient.
“I thought that was imperative. Johnny is the epitome of what you want in a captain. His communicative skills, his intensity, his leadership, the way he practices and the way he plays. I know he’s a guy who is very well respected inside the room,” Sutter said.
Sutter also indicated with a young roster likely on tap for next season, it will be good to have a leader who has played over 120 WHL games but also battled through plenty of adversity.
Johnson overcame injuries in each of his first two WHL campaigns and worked his way back to play in every contest in 2017-18.
“Being a 20-year-old, going into his last year of major junior and going through everything that he’s gone through,” Sutter said.
“And for him to come in and play like he did right from training camp through the whole year. Leading like he did and being very well-respected and growing that inside the room… states everything about that.”