Bolton Pouliot lived up to his part of the deal and now has a second life as a Western Hockey League goaltender.
“I told him this summer to come back and be a trooper, work hard in camp and during practices and I’d see what I could do to find him a place in the league to play,” Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Monday, after trading Pouliot to the Kamloops Blazers in return for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft.
“He’s going to a good place and he’s excited about it.”
With 20-year-old netminder Patrik Bartosak slated to return to the Rebels, there was simply no room for a 19-year-old back-up.
“When Los Angeles committed to sending Patty back (after selecting the CHL goalie of the year in June’s NHL entry draft ) it changed our thought process here as far as how we were going to deal with this,” said Sutter.
“Now we have two young goalies in (Taz) Burman and (Rylan) Toth and we’ll see which one we end up keeping to be Patty’s back-up. The other one will go back (to midget AAA) and develop through the season and hopefully come back here next year to give us a two-goalie tandem that can be here for awhile.”
Pouliot, reached at his home in Calgary, was well aware of the fact he was no longer in the Rebels’ plans.
“I knew that coming into camp. I knew the situation I was in,” said the club’s seventh-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft.
“Brent and I talked lots in the summer about it. We knew that Patty was going to come back and they wanted a young guy in there (as the No. 2 goalie), and rightfully so. I had to come into camp this year and help the young kids and work with them . . . be a positive attitude around the dressing room and hopefully I’d end up somewhere. Luckily it’s somewhere beautiful and a pretty awesome place to play.
“I’m just packing now. I’m leaving for Kamloops at 6 a.m. tomorrow and plan on being there at 2 p.m. for practice. It’s a quick turnaround, but I’m super excited about the opportunity.”
Pouliot’s time in Red Deer was marked by inconsistency. He sometimes showed signs of being a solid starter when given the opportunity, but could never maintain that form.
In 40 regular-season games with the Rebels since joining the club in 2010 as a 16-year-old, Pouliot posted a 8-17-0-4 record with a 3.18 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
And now he’s off to Kamloops where he will likely battle for the back-up position, behind probable 19-year-old starter Taran Kozun.
Pouliot will also be a teammate of Blazers forward Aspen Sterzer, the brother of his finance, Sierra Sterzer.
The two plan to get married next summer.
The Calgary native admitted he left Red Deer with mixed emotions.
“Red Deer has been nothing but awesome for me. I was given a lot of opportunities there, I got to play when I was a pretty young kid,” said Pouliot. “I have no regrets with Red Deer, they are one of the best — if not the best — organizations in the league and they treat their players incredibly well.”
He admitted it was somewhat difficult to leave the many friends he had on the team.
“Of course it was tough to say goodbye, but at the same time the guys knew the situation I was in and they wanted the best for me,” said Pouliot. “They know that I’m going somewhere where I’ll get a chance to play. They’re super happy and excited for me at the same time.”
l The Rebels conclude their preseason schedule this weekend, taking on the Edmonton Oil Kings in Lacombe Friday and tangling with the Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday at Stettler. Both games start at 7 p.m.