Growth happens in many ways for WHL prospects and Jayden Grubbe is no different.
The young Red Deer Rebels had the physical part mastered, standing well over six-feet tall last fall at the main camp.
On the hockey side, he matured and grew his game to a point this season were stepping into the league next year as a 16-year-old is becoming a real possibility.
At the Rebels three-day mini-prospect camp this weekend in Penhold, when the team put a group of 16 and 17 years old players, through the paces, Grubbe was certainly noticeable.
Last year for the Calgary Midget AAA Buffaloes in the Albert Midget Hockey League, the Calgary native had a strong regular season. He scored four goals and added 22 assists for 26 points in 32 games. From there he elevated his play, notching six goals and nine points in 11 playoff games.
Even more impressive, as a first-year midget player he recorded a pair of goals and three assists in seven games at the Telus Cup, Canada’s Midget AAA National Championship.
It was in those two post-season adventures that the six-foot-three, 191-pound forward really started to realize his potential.
“It was really cool just making it there, so that was a cool experience. Just learned a lot– step up and play like I did in playoffs the whole season,” Grubbe said.
“(The Telus Cup) is a more professional attitude than regular season and playoffs. You just learn from that…I started playing like myself in the playoffs, played like I expect myself to play.”
That run late in the season also turned heads among the coaching staff in Red Deer. Rebels GM/ head coach Brent Sutter said that Grubbe still has work to do if he wants to make the big club in the fall, but things are trending in the right direction at this point.
“Work on his strength and foot speed. As the season went on at AAA Midget, he was a really good player and in playoffs, he was very good and in the Telus Cup. We’re obviously excited about him,” Sutter said.
“It’s still about him making sure he’s putting in everything he needs to do to get better and continue to earn everything he gets.”
Sutter said overall he was happy with the skill level he saw at camp from the group this year with the new format. In previous seasons and with most teams across the WHL, they use this weekend to host younger players, mostly from the last few WHL Bantam Drafts.
As an organization, the Rebels felt this season they would give those players a break and invite players who have a realistic shot at cracking the 2019-20 WHL roster.
“Those young kids, they have long years and we didn’t want to put them through it,” Sutter said.
“We thought let’s just stay with the older group and it was good. We worked on a lot of situations that occur at our level and things we need to set out as our identity. I thought all the kids handled it well.”
Other players at camp included forwards Keaton Sorensen, Jordan Borysiuk, Jaxsen Wiebe, Ethan Rowland, Josh Medernach and Jace Isley, defencemen Kyle Masters, Trey Patterson, Blake Gustafson, Jeremy Hancock and Mason Ward, and netminder Eric Ward.