The undefeated start to the Red Deer Rebels season is not only surprising but appears as a small taste of what’s to come.
The Rebels came into this season with some uncertainty after losing to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round of WHL playoffs last May. Such as who would step up between the pipes in the absence of Chase Coward? Who would replace the scoring of forward Arshdeep Bains, and would veterans Finnish defenceman Christoffer Sedoff and forward Ben King return to the team?
Five games in and a lot of those questions have been answered already. In his first WHL season, goaltender Kyle Kelsey has been a welcomed surprise for the Rebels and has yet to drop a contest through four games of work.
During that time Kelsey has posted 1.49 goals against average and a .953 save percentage. He played in the season opener against the defending champion Oil Kings holding them to just two goals and a week later beat the Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats 4-2. Most recently got his first WHL shutout against the Lethbridge Hurricanes and stood tall in a 3-2 overtime battle against Central Division rival Calgary Hitmen.
Obviously, this run won’t be sustainable for the entire season, but Kelsey has proved himself to the club for the time being. If he can play at this level for a significant portion of the season will be a key to success for the Rebels. Whether he can continue it up to the playoffs? We’ll have to wait and see.
While goaltending plays a role, that’s just one aspect of the Rebels’ early success. A big part of the Rebels’ success last year was the offensive output by Arshdeep Bains and Ben King.
With the loss of Bains and before the return of King, the Rebels needed contributions from the whole lineup. Prior to the start of the season head coach Steve Konowalchuk said it didn’t appear they had that caliber of player but rather different kinds of players who can be just as effective in two-way style games.
“I think we’re going to be a team that relies on the forwards all chipping in,” he explained before the season.
“At this point, you don’t know I’m sure over the season a couple of guys will evolve a little bit more as one of the go-to guys but really everyone in the lineup can chip in and help score and create offence.”
They’ve certainly got that from multiple people in the lineup.
The Rebels currently have four players with at least four goals to begin the season including Jhett Larson (five), Jace Isley (four), Hunter Mayo (four), and Kai Uchacz (four). They’ve also had players who were recently traded who helped get them to this point including defenceman Tanner Brown (six assists) and Carter Anderson (three goals).
And now with the return of Sedoff, King, and captain Jayden Grubbe from NHL camps, it bolsters an already deep lineup. Through three games Grubbe has contributed five assists and Sedoff has two assists. Grubbe has played a physical game and has stood up for his teammates on many occasions. Meanwhile, Sedoff has played on the powerplay and plays a fast-paced game with incredible puck control. King just returned this week and will see his first game action this weekend since returning from the Anaheim Ducks.
The Rebels head to the land of the living skies for a two-game road trip against the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Warriors are led by forwards Brayden Yager (three goals, six assists) and Atley Calvert (four goals, three assists), which has been good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 4-3-0-0 record.
Former Red Deer Rebels goaltender Connor Ungar has played and won five games for the Warriors with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. Goaltender Jackson Unger lost all three starts in net.
The Swift Current Broncos haven’t seen the same success and are sitting in second last place in the conference with a 2-4-0-0 record. They’ve had contributions on offence from five different players including Josh Filmon (two goals, two assists), Connor Hvidston (two goals, two assists), Clarke Caswell (two goals, two assists), Raphael Pelletier (two goals, one assist), and Matthew Ward (one goal, five assists).
They’ve also split time between three goaltenders Joey Rocha (one game), Gage Alexander (three games), and Reid Dyck (three games).