With four 20-year-olds on the Red Deer Rebels roster, one eventually had to go.
Unfortunately for Cody Esposito, he drew the short draw.
The Rebels placed the rugged forward on Western Hockey League waivers following Tuesday’s practice session, nine days before all teams are required to declare their three overage players for the 2009-10 season.
With the off-season acquisition of forward Nathan Green and the considerable presence of Cullen Morin on the blueline, the two 20-year-olds on the bubble were Esposito and forward Jordie Deagle. While Esposito gave the Rebels a legitimate heavyweight, Deagle simply brought more to the table, including a better offensive touch.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Esposito when Deagle played three of four games during the Rebels recent road trip. Prior to the trip, they had each appeared in two games.
“Those guys were pretty close, we just felt that ‘Deags’ is a little more rounded and can help us in some different areas,” said Rebels vice president of hockey operations/head coach Jesse Wallin. “Cody is a great kid and he’s great in the room. He was a good teammate and he was a good kid to coach, but at the end of the day we just felt that Jordie was the better option and brings us a little more.”
Wallin attempted to trade Esposito, who was pointless in three games with seven minutes in penalties, before placing him on waivers.
“We’d been trying to make something happen for some time and nothing was working out, so it just came to the point where we had to make a decision,” said Wallin.
Today is the deadline for a WHL team to put forth a claim for Esposito. If nothing transpires, the Airdrie product will join a junior A club.
“I’m looking over a few options,” Esposito said on Wednesday. “I’m still waiting to see if I’ll stay in the WHL, and if that doesn’t work out there are junior A teams that have approached me.”
Esposito checked into the Rebels training camp in August after a summer of rigourous training both on and off the ice.
“I definitely worked my bag of during the summer,” said the six-foot-three, 204-pound winger. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any regrets. I came in and gave it my all and unfortunately it didn’t work out.
“It’s been a tough battle, but it’s a business and ‘Wally’ had to make a decision based on what’s best for the team. There’s not much I could do about it.”
Esposito said he’s been in contact with two junior A teams from each of B.C. and Manitoba. As a 16-year-old, he played for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but doesn’t know if the Bandits still own his junior A rights.
Either way, he’s not currently interested in returning to Brooks.
“I don’t think I’ll be going there, that’s how I’m leaning right now,” he said. “But who knows, anything can happen. Different teams are offering different things.”
While he wouldn’t disclose which junior A teams have expressed interest in obtaining his services, Dauphin, Man., might be a desirable location with the MJHL Kings hosting the Royal Bank Cup next spring.
• The Rebels return to action this weekend, with the Saskatoon Blades at the Centrium on Friday and the Brandon Wheat Kings visiting on Sunday (6 p.m.).