Give or take a few faces, the Red Deer Rebels’ roster for tonight’s 7 p.m. Western Hockey League preseason meeting with the Calgary Hitmen at the Centennial Arena in Calgary will be identical to the lineup that defeated the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-0 last weekend.
One of the new faces might be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a 16-year-old forward who’s expected to be an impact player this season.
The Burnaby, B.C., native did not participate in training camp due to illness and practised with the Rebels for just the second time on Tuesday.
“We’re thinking of giving ‘Hoppy’ another day to make sure he’s really ready to play,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
If Hopkins doesn’t go, second-year forward Josh Cowen will get the call and will be joined up front by fellow veterans Cody Esposito, Connor Redmond, Brett Ferguson and Jordie Deagle and prospective rookies Colten Mayor, Jesse Mireau, Brett Miller, John Persson, Chad Robinson, Turner Elson and Mason Burr.
The defensive corps won’t change from Saturday’s shutout win over Moose Jaw at St. Albert, with 15-year-old Matt Dumba joining fellow rookie rookies Brad Deagle and Jindra Barak as well as veterans Justin Weller, Colin Archer and Cullen Morin.
Returnees Darcy Kuemper and Cam Gorchynski will guard the Red Deer net.
Barak, a Czech rearguard who along with Swedish forward Persson was selected in this year’s CHL import draft, missed training camp with an illness, then played sparingly in last week’s Black and White intrasquad game and didn’t look out of place against the Warriors. “He looked fine, he played well,” said Wallin.
Barak isn’t a physical specimen at five-foot-10 and 187 pounds, but be plays a safe game.
“His (lack of) size is kind of the downside on him, but having said that he skates very well and plays the game with his head up,” said Wallin. “He seems to make a good first pass and he’s a guy who keeps the game simple.”
Meanwhile, 16-year-old forward Daulton Siwak skated on Tuesday for the first time since contracting mononucleosis during the summer.
Wallin is anticipating that the Olds native, Red Deer’s second pick in the 2008 bantam draft — after Nugent-Hopkins — will be ready to partake in full-contact drills as early as next week.
“Daulton had blood work done the other day and it came back negative, so the mono has gone through his system,” said the Rebels bench boss.
“Now it’s just a matter of him getting his strength and conditioning back.
“He’ll skate on his own for a day or two to get his feet back under him and then hopefully we can slowly get him integrated back into practice. He may be ready to play by next weekend (Sept. 11-12).”
Defencemen Alex Petrovic (groin) and Nick Bell (ankle) are still unavailable and are listed as day-to-day. Petrovic could play as early as Friday against the Kooteney Ice at Stettler (7:30 p.m.) while Bell’s return is up in the air.
The Rebels’ roster currently includes eight defencemen, including Dumba who will be reassigned prior to the start of the regular season, along with 17 forwards and three goaltenders, including Kraymer Barnstable. Burr, a 15-year-old forward, will also be reassigned within the next two weeks.
• Kuemper is set to depart for the Minnesota Wild rookie camp on Thursday, while Cass Mappin will leave for the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie camp the same day.
Landon Ferraro and Willie Coetzee will head off to the Detroit Red Wings’ camp on Friday and Weller will depart for the Phoenix Coyotes rookie gathering on Saturday.
• Forward Zane Jones of Olds, 15, and Red Deer defenceman Graeme Craig, 16, have signed WHL contracts with Chilliwack and Swift Current, respectively.