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Red Deer Rebels rearguards more experienced ahead of 2022-23 season

The Rebels made additions to the core
Defenceman Tanner Brown skates up the ice during the final 2022 preseason game on Saturday against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Heading into his fourth Western Hockey League season Red Deer Rebels defenceman Blake Gustafson has all the experience you’d hope to have on a team.

And the same can be said for most of the blueliners on the squad for the 2022-23 season. Rebels management traded for defenceman Mats Lindgren and Tanner Brown to bolster the group but also will see the return of key members of the core from last years such as Matteo Fabrizi, and Jace Weir.

Gustafson told the Advocate it’s been nice coming in to the season as an older player to share his perspective with the younger players.

“My mission all of camp has just been to be inviting to all these kids and make sure they understand how it all works here. I think the 20 (year old) group as a whole did a good at that this year,” he said.

However, there is still some uncertainty about who will stay on the Rebels roster for the upcoming season. Each team is allowed three 20-year-old players on the roster and with the unknown status of forward Ben King and defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, who are both 20 and attending their respective NHL team camps, which leaves the team three other 20-year-old players including Brown, Gustafson, and forward Jace Isley.

If Sedoff and King return to the Rebels the organization might have to make the tough decision to cut two other players.

Despite that decision looming, everyone on the team Gustafson said can’t wait to get the season started.

“I think we have a really good team this year. I think we should be on par with last year, work off that, and hopefully be better than last year,” he said. “I’m really excited for our defensive core this year. I mean we don’t have many changes compared to last year and the new young guys coming in seem really promising… We got a great coach with Mike Egener and he holds all the boys accountable so I think it should be a good year.”

Gustafson also hopes to play with more grit this season and kept that in the back of his mind all summer.

“I still remember that exit meeting and this year I planning on being a little bit harder to play against and just meaner on the ice,” he said adding he has to be a different person on the ice than he is off the ice. He also looks to himself as a traditional defensive defenceman who kills penalties, blocks shots, and make first passes.

Brown, who was traded to the Rebels from the Winnipeg Ice back in July, brought further depth and experience to the blueline.

In his short few months in central Alberta Brown is feeling more at home. He said it’s been awesome and explained the Rebels are a strong organization and is looking forward to playing for them, especially alongside his teammates on defence.

“I think we got a bit of everything. I think we have some guys who have lots of skill and lots of guys who are good shutdown guys. A lot of big boys, lots of physical guys, so I think we have a really strong core this year on the blue line,” Brown said. “It’s a great group of super nice guys.”

Brown is a product of Kelowna, B.C. and in 67 regular-season games last season, he scored seven goals and collected 26 points. He hopes to help the Rebels make the playoffs and be a winning team this year.

“Looking forward to a new opportunity,” he said adding he hopes to bring leadership to the team. “I’ve been in this league a long time now and I think I want to control the play and pace, help out the back end as much as I can, and be a two waytwo-waydefenceman who can score goals.”

The Rebels open the WHL season on Friday in Edmonton, followed by the Red Deer Advocate Home Opener on Saturday at the Peavey Mart Centrium, with puck drop at 7 p.m.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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