The Red Deer Rebels left the Sheraton with their prospect cupboard bursting at the seams on Thursday.
They made 10 selections in the WHL Bantam Draft, including five forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies.
With their seventh overall pick, the Rebels selected centre Jayden Grubbe of the Calgary Bisons. Grubbe, 15, was the captain of the Bisons in the Alberta Bantam AAA Hockey League this season and notched 29 goals and 66 points in 35 games.
The six-foot-one, 170-pound forward was in Philadelphia on the way to the rink at a spring tournament when he got the news.
“Just really excited to be close to home. Great coach obviously in Brent Sutter and be honoured to be playing for him hopefully,” Grubbe said in a phone interview.
Grubbe was the AMBHL South MVP and the top scorer in the league. Along with being a steady point producer, he also notched 104 penalty minutes in 35 games but sees himself as an all-around player.
“I’m a bigger centre, play in all three zones and play whenever the coach needs me to go out,” Grubbe said.
— #WHLDraft (@DraftGeekHockey) May 3, 2018
Rebels assistant GM and director of player personnel Shaun Sutter explained the team hopes a good combination of size and skill will help the powerful centre jump to WHL level soon.
“He’s a big guy that can skate, he’s got a lot of power to his game. He’s a guy that’s a presence on the ice with his physicality. He’s got skill to beat people one-on-one. He can make plays and score and he’s a guy that’s got upside to his game,” Sutter said.
Sutter added Grubbe has been a player they’ve targeted since mid-season, and they think he can be a strong power forward in the WHL and beyond.
The Rebels assistant GM also noted that the Rebels seem to have success with big forwards like former captain Adam Musil and Conner Bleackley.
“Size and skill is really hard to get, especially up the middle. Often there’s players that have ability but they don’t have that size or physicality to them. Jayden is a pretty unique player in that sense. We want to be a heavy team, a black-and-blue team,” Sutter added.
“Going back to when we had a real good team at the Memorial Cup, we were a real big hockey team. You still have to be able to play fast and with his size, he’s also a real good skater. He’s a guy that hopefully down the road, NHL teams will be interested down the road because of that.”
With their second pick of the first round at 16, the Rebels took defenceman Kyle Masters from the OHA Edmonton. The five-foot-10, 147-pound defender from Edmonton had seven goals and 24 points in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
“Defenceman have to be able to skate and move the puck now. He’s going to grow a little bit and get stronger, but he’s got a real quick mind and quick hands and can dance with the puck,” Sutter said.
“He likes to be up ice and attack and that’s how we want to play. We want to play a fast, up-tempo game, where our D move the puck and he can do that.”
In the second round, the Rebels picked left defenceman Trey Patterson at 28th overall. He was a teammate of Grubbe in Calgary with the Bisons in the AMBHL. He had four goals and 21 assists in 36 games for the Bisons and added two assists in five games at the Alberta Cup in Spruce Grove.
Red Deer picked Josh Medernach of Lloydminster, Alta. in the third round, 50th overall. The five-foot-10, 164-pound centre also played for the OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep.
They selected defenceman Jeremy Hancock from OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep in the fourth round. The six-foot-four defenceman is from Melfort, Sask.
With the 94th pick in the draft, Red Deer added forward Chase Bertholet of Thompson, Man. In 36 games with the Norman Wolves in Bantam AAA, Bertholet had 30 goals and 68 points.
The Rebels grabbed goalie Dylan Lacroix of the Calgary Northstar Sabres in the sixth round. Red Deer also picked Hunter Brown (forward, Fort St. John B.C.) in the eighth round, Zane Winter (goalie, Carlyle, Sask.) in the ninth and Dylan Fader (forward, Vancouver, B.C.) in the 10th round.
Five of the 10 Rebels selections were from Alberta and three played for OHA Edmonton.
Thursday’s draft featured 2003-born players and they will not be eligible to play full time in the WHL until the 2019-2020 season.