Red Deer Rebels defenceman Kyle Masters hasn’t had the best of luck over the past year and a half.
The 17-year-old, who is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, missed much of last season after suffering an injury World Under 17 Hockey Challenge in November. He only played 14 games after that, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced another adjustment for the Edmonton product.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go through all that,” Masters said.
“With this year being my draft year, my time and effort were put towards my training. Just not knowing what was going to happen this year, I wanted to put myself in the best position possible so I could start the season at full stride.”
Masters, along with 25 Rebels’ players are back in town as the team gets set to open the 24-game shortened WHL season Friday against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
After quarantining and settling into their new rooms – the suites at the Westerner Park Centrium – the players have been going full bore on the ice, doing everything in their power to make this season a worthwhile one.
“Everyone got here and was excited. Being off for some long helped everyone grow off the ice, so everyone is strong and everyone is mentally ready to go,” Masters said.
Being at the rink for so long, us living here, the younger guys were able to get a little bit more comfortable with the older guys. As a group we’ve kind of all came together and we’re all excited to see what we can do.”
Masters, who is expected to play a big role on the Rebels blueline in the absence of import Christoffer Sedoff, had a lucky ally during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His dad, Kevin is a former Rebel and also a trainer, which meant lots of time in the garage gym alongside his little brother Lukas. That work helped him put on nearly 20-pounds in anticipation of this season.
“Through the offseason, we had a pretty nice home set up to keep me and my little brother going,” Masters said.
Arshdeep Bains, the Rebels leading scorer from the 2019-20 campaign said training and waiting were pretty much all he focused on over the last 12 months.
He got some training in with fellow forward Chris Douglas, but mostly focused on getting stronger and faster throughout the summer and into the extended break over the fall.
Getting the official word that there would be a season was music to his ears.
“I was excited. It was a lot of time off. Honestly doing anything– it’s a privilege that we can get something together,” he said.
Bains, who had 18 points and 33 assists in 63 games last year to lead the team is ready to take another step forward in his development this season, especially as a veteran member of the Rebels.
With Red Deer returning most of their roster from last season, he said it’s given them a leg up this past week in practice preparing for the short season.
“It’s a lot of fun. We just missed being together and now we get that opportunity, so we’re all excited,” he said.
Ben King, Jayden Grubbe, Zak Smith, Jace Isley, Keaton Sorensen, Jaxon Wiebe, Dallon Melin, Josh Medernach and Ethan Rowland make up the rest of the forward group, along with overagers Josh Tarzwell and Douglas.
Sixteen-year-olds Jhett Larson and Carter Anderson are also in camp, along with the Rebels’ sixth overall pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, Kalan Lind.
On defence, Masters is joined by Trey Patterson, Blake Gustafson, Mason Ward, Chase Leslie and Joel Sexsmith. Sixteen-year-olds Jace Weir and Hunter Mayo will also have a chance to get into game action.
Ethan Anders returns for his 20-year-old season in goal, along with Byron Fancy and Chase Coward.