It’s been a hectic week in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
None more so than for Red Deer Rebels newcomers Ryker Singer and Nicholas Andrusiak who were dealt from their respective teams ahead of the WHL’s trade deadline on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
A week ago on Thursday, Jan. 5 Singer was acquired from the Prince George Cougars in exchange for forward Arjun Bawa and a pair of WHL Prospects Draft picks.
Singer said so far his time with his new team has been great and that his departure from the Cougars was mutual.
“I think a fresh start on a new team was going to help me this year and it’s been working good so far,” he said.
In his first three games, the 17-year-old has two goals, all of which came against the Saskatoon Blades last week.
“I just wanted to come in here and get comfortable with the guys, get comfortable with the coaches, and have a good start,” he added.
With the Cougars he played 34 games contributing three goals and six assists for nine points.
Despite his short stint in Red Deer so far, Singer is already a Red Deer Rebel through and through playing a physical brand of hockey.
During the Blades game on top of the pair of goals, he also dropped the gloves in a fight.
The five-foot-ten, 166-pound forward may be small, but he doesn’t let that stop him.
“I definitely bring that physicality and grit that the teams already got… I think I can really help out the team in the physical aspect,” Singer said.
“I’m not scared to go in the corners, not scared to rough it up sometimes and get some more life from my team.”
At the time of the trade owner, president, and general manager Brent Sutter said they wanted to add skill and speed to the lineup. Both of which Singer possesses.
“He’s going to help our team but he’s still young. We think down the road he can be a big part of our team a year from now,” Sutter said.
“We wouldn’t have done the trade if we didn’t think he’d come in and bring us what we’re looking for.”
Singer came from the Cougars, who are seventh in the Western Conference, to a team second in the Eastern Conference and first in the Central Division. Furthermore, the Rebels are a squad who are ready to compete for a championship so Singer knew he had to elevate his game.
“I definitely knew it was going to be tough here I’ve heard but I’m really liking it so far. The talent, the compete in practices, off the ice, on the ice… everything,” he added.
“It’s definitely nice knowing this team is ready to win and ready to go far in the playoffs.”
Even though he’s moved to a new city, the experience hasn’t been completely unfamiliar to him. He previously played with former Cougar and current Rebels forward Craig Armstrong and played with Kalan Lind at a U17 tournament.
The move to Red Deer has also been a homecoming for Singer who grew up in Paradise Hills, Sask. He expressed a desire to play closer to home and is already reaping the benefits.
“Lots of family coming here, Edmonton, Saskatoon. [I’ll have] lot’s of guys coming to watch,” Singer explained.
Andrusiak was traded to Red Deer on trade deadline day from the Portland Winterhawks to address the need for more depth within the defensive group.
The 18-year-old defenceman from Tisdale, Sask. played his first game with the Rebels Wednesday night at the Centrium and said so far it’s been fun.
“It’s a great organization to come to with their coaching staff and players. Coming to another top team is nice and just getting the opportunity to play in the western league is awesome,” Andrusiak said.
Before he joined Red Deer, Andrusiak played a total of three games with the Winterhawks since he was signed by them in September 2021.
He’s spent the last two seasons with the Melville Millionaires in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and 20 games into the 2022-23 campaign he has a pair of goals and one assist for three points.
Andrusiak explained it was a mutual split from Portland because they didn’t have much room for him on the backend.
“My agent called me and said Red Deer was interested in acquiring me and I talked with [Winterhawks head coach and general manager] Mike Johnston and he said it was a great opportunity for me to come here and get some playing time,” Andrusiak said.
“Establish myself as a player in the WHL… It’s nice to get another opportunity.”
Sutter explained on trade deadline day this was a move to add more depth but also one that brought in another player who can skate well and is strong.
“He can really skate and makes a good first pass. That’s what we were looking for on defence … He’s a really good teammate and he’ll be a good soldier in the dressing room,” Sutter said.
The five-foot-ten, 188-pound blueliner said he hopes he can be a steadying presence for the Rebels.
“Brent just told me to be a physically strong defender in my own zone, make simple plays, be smart, and make a good first pass,” he said.
“I like the systems they have here it’s pretty simple and easygoing. There’s a lot of leeway here. They let you do your own thing without really forcing you to do stuff out of your comfort zone.”