Former NHLer Robert Reichel is certain of one thing with it comes to his son Kristian.
“He’s got a better shot than me,” said Reichel, who played 830 NHL games with the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders at the Red Deer Rebels Training Camp on Wednesday.
Day 1 of camp at the Centrium marked Kristian’s first opportunity to join the Rebels after he was selected by the club in the CHL Import Draft earlier this summer.
The six-foot, 170-pound forward said there’s one big motivation behind why he decided to come to North America.
“I want to win. I like winning so that’s the main thing. I won’t play lots as an individual. I want to play with my teammates and play hockey and win,” he said.
Kristian spent some time last season in the Czech Republic’s top tier professional league with HC Litvinov, a club his dad played six seasons for from 2004-2010. At 19, Kristian had just two goals and six assists in 41 games. When he was relegated to the second league with HC Most after returning from the World Junior Hockey Championships, he said it pushed him towards trying to make it in Canada.
“I played two years in the men’s league, but last year the first half of the season was pretty good. Then I went to world juniors and after that the coach sent me to the farm team,” Kristian said. “I played two minutes per game so I wanted a change. If I play two minutes a game I won’t improve. So I wanted to come and try here.”
Coming here means a big adjustment with style of play and getting used to the smaller rink, something the teen is well aware of, he said.
“You can score a goal from everywhere on the rink. That’s a good opportunity,” he said.
His dad, no stranger to the smaller ice surface with 252 goals in the NHL, said his son seems keen to learn the game here and that biggest hurdle will be the reduced space in the offensive zone.
“He can play both ways, up front. He’s got a good shot. He makes plays and is good on the power play. In the defensive zone he can do the same thing,” he said.
“He’s smart. Good passer. Good on face offs. You guys will see him and you will know.”
Kristian teamed up on Wednesday with what could be the Rebels top line come opening night on Sept. 23, skating alongside Lane Zablocki and Brandon Hagel. Both Zablocki and Hagel are the team’s two top scorers returning from the 2016-2017 roster.
More main camp action is set for Friday at the Centrium, with players on the ice from 9:30-11 a.m. and again from 1:30-3 p.m.