Just 24 hours after reassigning/releasing 12 players, the Red Deer Rebels bid adieu to three more late Thursday and cut ties with defenceman Kevin Woodyatt on Friday.
Woodyatt, a 17-year-old Arizona product, was given his outright release, ending a two-year association with the Rebels who selected him in the sixth round of the 2007 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“He spent part (three games) of last season with us and there were areas of his game that we wanted him to address this summer,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin. “In our opinion he didn’t address those areas, or at least to the level we expected.”
Forwards Tyson Ness and Jordan Neduzak and defenceman Matt Pufahl were reassigned on Thursday, for various reasons.
After potting 16 goals as a 16-year-old with the junior A Winkler Flyers last winter, Neduzak was expected to seriously challenge for regular employment with the Rebels this season. However, based on his play through training camp and Wednesday’s Black and White intrasquad game, he remained as little more than a legitimate prospect.
Therefore, before nullifying his U.S. college scholarship eligibility by appearing in even a single WHL exhibition game, the 17-year-old packed his bags and headed home. He’ll likely rejoin the Flyers for the upcoming MJHL season.
“He was on the bubble and we certainly wanted to give him a longer look, but he wants to leave his options open,” said Wallin. “That’s what he decided and we’ll move on without him.”
Ness, meanwhile, wasn’t a serious candidate to play in the WHL this season and Pufahl suffered a serious shoulder injury early in training camp that may require surgery. Ness, of Grande Prairie, and Saskatoon native Pufahl are both 16.
“Ness is a younger guy and we think he’s a prospect, but we didn’t see him playing here this year so it allows him to go home and get into his junior A camp up in Grande Prairie (with the Storm of the AJHL),” said Wallin. “And Pufahl has a significant shoulder injury and will be seeing a specialist in Saskatoon.”
The latest deletions leave the Rebels with 30 roster players, including rookie forward Daulton Siwak, who contracted mononucleosis and won’t join the club until next month. The list also includes incoming forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who didn’t participate in training camp due to illness.
Defenceman Matt Dumba and forward Mason Burr, the Rebels’ first two picks in this year’s bantam draft, are still with the club although they are not eligible to play in the league this year and will be reassigned before the start of the regular season.
Meanwhile, injured defencemen Alex Petrovic (groin) and Nick Bell (ankle) are not available for the Rebels’ first preseason game, set for today at 3 p.m. at the St. Albert Servus Centre against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
All six of Red Deer’s healthy rearguards — Dumba, Cullen Morin, Jindra Barak, Justin Weller, Colin Archer and Brad Deagle — will dress for the game, as will rookie forwards Burr, Turner Elson, Brett Miller, Colten Mayor, John Persson, Jesse Mireau and Chad Robinson. Also slated to play are veteran forwards Brett Ferguson, Cody Esposito, Cass Mappin, Adam Kambeitz and Connor Redmond, as well as incumbent netminder Darcy Kuemper and potential back-up stopper Kraymer Barnstable.
Mappin will attend the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie camp in short order, while Weller (Phoenix) and Kuemper (Minnesota) also have their itineraries for their respective rookie camps. Landon Ferraro and Willie Coetzee will leave for the Detroit Red Wings rookie camp late next week.
“‘All of the newcomers will play and we’re going to give ‘Mapps’ an opportunity as well because he missed the practices during camp (while participating in power skating drills),” said Wallin. “And with (Weller) missing as much hockey as he did last year (due to injury) we’d like to get him in an exhibition game before he goes to pro camp. We’ll give (Kuemper) a little game action before he goes to pro camp, as well.”