Reese Johnson had a pretty memorable few minutes in Michigan earlier this week.
The Rebels captain was playing for the New York Rangers in rookie camp on Tuesday in Traverse City and scored a pair of third-period goals in their final tournament game against the St. Louis Blues.
Although the Rangers lost that game 8-4, Johnson, who returned to Red Deer on Wednesday, was nonchalant about his offensive performance.
“I scored a couple in the last game in the third period, it was nice,” said the 20-year-old forward.
“Nice to get a couple. A lot of good players, everyone is good, moves the puck well and makes smart plays. Nice to play like that.”
Johnson hopes to build on his 23-goal, 16 assist campaign last year for the Rebels and said the time in Traverse City was valuable for his growth as a player.
“It was a good experience seeing what it’s like at the next level. It’s always good to see that. I had a lot of fun and all the guys were great,” he said, adding that getting faster and stronger are big parts of how he needs to improve his game.
“Learned that it’s a fast game up there. Everyone is playing to make money and it’s a job up there. It’s the real deal and everyone is going hard. Everyone is 20-25 years old, they’re strong.”
Rebels defenceman Jacob Herauf was at Pittsburgh Penguins rookie camp and played in Buffalo at the rookie tournament.
Herauf only dressed for one game with Pittsburgh at the tournament, but said even in some of the practices it was evident how good players are at the next level.
“I learned a lot. The biggest thing was just how good players are across Canada, North America, and even Europe. How big, strong and how fast they are,” he said.
“We had two or three practices, they weren’t necessarily hard, but fast-paced, high tempo and hard in the sense that guys were working harder than you think. They’re playing for jobs, they’re playing to make the NHL and for money and a living. Just how hard guys work, all the time.”
The five-foot-11, 185-pound blueliner also said it was interesting to see that in Pittsburgh, the style of play isn’t that different than what they teach in Red Deer.
“Guys are just so good. It took a while to settle in. Once you get settled in, you get accustomed to the play,” Herauf said.
“It’s fast hockey – the good thing was the way they play in Pittsburgh, is very similar to the way we play in Red Deer. With the systems and the small plays defensively. How hard you have to work each and every shift. That benefited me. It’s an eye-opener for sure.”
Herauf even noticed that some of the top WHL talent at the tournament made a big impact.
“(Calen) Addison and (Jordy) Bellerive from Lethbridge were there, I notice even during the season when we play them, those are phenomenal players. Even there you could tell they were near that pro level,” Herauf said.
“You look at Rasmus Dalhin (for Buffalo). He went first overall for a reason. He’s pretty exceptional. Even Colby Sissons, from Swift Current, he played for New Jersey, I was impressed with him. He looked solid.”
Johnson said it was similar in Traverse City, where he lined up against the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Pavel Zadina.
“We played Detroit, it was pretty cool to play against (Pavel) Zadina, pretty skilled guy. Had a couple shifts against him, think I just went straight for the body. Wasn’t going to watch the puck on him,” Johnson recalled.
Brandon Hagel was also sent back to Red Deer from Montreal Canadiens Rookie Camp.
Defenceman Alex Alexeyev advanced to Washington Capitals Main Camp and fellow defender Dawson Barteaux also moved forward into Dallas Stars camp. Alexeyev was picked by the Capitals in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft and Barteaux was picked in the sixth round by the Stars.