Red Deer Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe says he was excited to get back on the ice with his teammates after missing most of last season due to injury.
Rebels training camp is underway, as on-ice practice sessions began at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday.
“It’s nice to get back with the group. It’s kind of been a while since I’ve been on the ice with everyone. It’s nice being back with the teammates and getting my first couple skates under me. It’s been good so far,” said Grubbe, who suffered a torn ACL this past March, ending his 2021 Western Hockey League season after just six games.
When Rebels training camp wraps up, Red Deer’s captain will head to New York to participate in his first National Hockey League training camp.
Grubbe was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in July. He said participating in that camp will help him improve his game for when he returns to the WHL.
“Going there and coming back here will be a good experience,” he said.
“(After) playing at a higher level with some good, skilled players out in New York, I’ll be able to come back here and maybe things will feel a step slower, which would give me an advantage when the season starts.”
Red Deer head coach Steve Konowalchuk said he will begin to lean more heavily on his leaders, like Grubbe, as camp continues to roll on.
“I’m teaching them what I’ll ask of them right now and they’re trying to absorb,” he said.
“As we get going, it’s going to be up to the leaders to help reinforce and lead the charge on the ice in practices and games.”
Konowalchuk said he has liked the team’s depth and pace early on in training camp.
“I think for the first few days of camp there’s a pretty good pace. Obviously getting the summer rust off … is all a part of early training camp,” he said.
“I like the depth. From the top guys to the rookies, they can skate up and down the ice at a good pace and move the puck around pretty well.”
One of the newest Rebels, goaltender Connor Ungar, said the players and coaches have helped him adjust to his new environment.
“The transition’s been quite easy. It’s a great facility, there’s a great group of returning guys. No complaints,” Ungar said.
“Grubbe and all of the other returning guys have been super welcoming. I knew a few of them previously to this year. Talking to them has been really important in helping me get settled.”
Ungar was traded to the Rebels this past May. He played eight games for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2021 season, recording a .904 save percentage and a 2.87 goals-against average.
Ungar said the “No. 1 goal” he has for himself is to earn the starting goaltending position. He and returning netminder Chase Coward are expected to battle for that job.
“Cowie’s going to push me (to be better) and I’m going to push him. It’s going to be good,” he said.
“As a team I think we can always do great things. The ultimate goal is always going to be to win a championship.”
The Rebels Black and White game is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. Fans are able to attend, with admission being a donation to the Red Deer Firefighters Children’s Charity.