Red Deer minor hockey product Josh Tarzwell leads the Rebels through 30 games this season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer minor hockey product Josh Tarzwell leads the Rebels through 30 games this season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels Josh Tarzwell finds scoring touch amid more responsibility

The Red Deer product’s 12 goals lead the Rebels through 30 games this season

Josh Tarzwell is finally doing what most around the WHL thought he was capable of.

A former second-round pick by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, he’s always had high expectations.

Ever since he arrived in Red Deer in December of 2017, there has been a mystique around why Tarzwell couldn’t find the net more.

After all, he has a hard, heavy shot, always one of the best on the team. It wasn’t always the most accurate, but more than the 35 goals on 301 shots indicates, which is an 11.6 per cent shooting percentage.

All that has changed in his 19-year-old campaign.

Through 30 games, his 12 goals are already a career-high. He’s registered 0.5 points-per-game, also well above 0.37, his career total through 204 WHL games.

Shots on goal aren’t always perfectly tracked in the WHL, but Tarzwell is seeing a surprising uptick there as well. Through 30 games, he already has 71. That has him on pace for 156 this year, more than any other season in his career.

“Puck’s going in, it’s a nice change. I think I’m trying to shoot more, (Wednesday) I didn’t get many shots but I think overall I’m trying to get more shots,” he said.

“Brent’s always harped on me about hitting the net, so I try more than anything to get it on net and not miss the net, I think it’s really helped.”

To this point, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter thinks the teen might have tried to be a bit too fine with his chances and with age, that’s starting to change a bit.

There’s a lot of young players like that, they want to make it perfect,” he said.

“When you have a heavy, hard shot like he does, if you hit the net with it, I like your chances of the puck going in or creating a scoring opportunity.”

Age and familiarity also seem to have a lot to do with the recent success. The Red Deer minor hockey product has now played more than 100 games representing his hometown and looks comfortable in all situations.

“He’s a 19-year-old now, a year more mature and a year more experienced in the league. There’s more responsibility on him and he’s taken it and run with it,” said Sutter, who traded for the local product in December of 2017.

“(Also) Leadership, he’s an awesome young man. Everyone develops at different rates. He started really coming on in the last third of the season last year. He’s just carried through with that, he does everything right.”

Tarzwell, too, understands that responsibility now. He feels like he carries it on every scoring chance. To some overwhelming, but to the six-foot-1, 205-pound winger, an opportunity, especially with a scorer like Brandon Hagel no longer with the Rebels.

“I’m trying to play a more controlled game. Because I know we don’t have (Brandon Hagel) to help us score,” Tarzwell said.

“I think it’s fun. I quite enjoy it. Playing in different situations and taking that role that Brent’s given me and run with it.”

Sutter expanded on the controlled game, saying that Tarzwell is playing a more north-south, straight-line game that a power forward needs to play to be successful. As the Rebels leading goal scorer, it’s paying off so far.

“He’s your typical power forward type player,” Sutter said.

“And he can shoot the puck, he gets scoring chances now because he’s figuring out where to be on the ice and figuring out how to get his shot away in certain situations. Just a better understanding of the game all around.”

The Rebels will host the high-flying Medicine Hat Tigers Friday then finish off the first half hosting the Swift Current Broncos Saturday.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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