Ollie Josephson has signed a Western Hockey League Standard Player Agreement with the Red Deer Rebels. (Contributed photo)

Ollie Josephson has signed a Western Hockey League Standard Player Agreement with the Red Deer Rebels. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Rebels rookie Ollie Josephson soaking up WHL experience

Rebels finish regular season against Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday

Nearly three months ago, shortly before Christmas, Ollie Josephson thought he had secured his first WHL goal, in his first WHL game.

Hours after the game, that goal was eventually rewarded to teammate Dallon Melin. His first WHL point would have to wait.

Josephson, 15, spent a week with the Red Deer Rebels before Christmas, less than a month after he was selected fifth overall in the WHL Prospects Draft.

“The draft was pretty cool, but I’d say this is a lot more fun than that. just playing with all the guys and meeting everyone and being part of the team, it’s been a lot of fun and really cool,” said the five-foot-11, 170-pound centre who has played six games this year with Red Deer.

After his U17 AAA season in B.C. with the South Island Royals ended, Josephson returned to Red Deer on March 11. In five games since, the youngster has found ways to have an impact, even if he hasn’t found the scoresheet.

“Dedicated player. That’s what you see in practice. He wants to do well, pays attention. On the ice, you see his skating and skill, that stands out. He can skate fast and he’s got good stickhandling skill and seems like a pretty smart player,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuck.

His much anticipated first point finally arrived Wednesday, when Josephson burst into the Calgary Hitmen zone late in the third period. He wired a wrist shot off the rush that hit a defender’s stick and deflected high over the net. A fortuitous bounce landed on the stick of Kai Uchacz and he poked it in. Josephson finally had his first WHL point, even if it wasn’t exactly how he drew it up.

“Uchacz gave me a pass and I had a bit of speed going. Saw the d-man turn his feet so I tried to cut back and shoot. Missed the net and Uchacz just jammed the net. I guess it went in. Felt pretty good, pretty lucky,” Josephson said.

“I didn’t (realize it was an assist) but I got into the huddle and the guys were like ‘first point, first point’, so it was a pretty cool feeling.”

Long term, the teen figures to factor into the Rebels’ forward group.

“He’s a kid that probably… we feel we’re deep upfront. If we weren’t, over the long haul that he’s been here probably would have got a lot more games and found a regular role. We feel we’re pretty deep, so he’s had to be patient,” Konowalchuk said.

With one game left in the WHL season, Josephson might be in the stands when the first round of the WHL playoffs kick off next week. Whatever happens over the next few months, he’s enjoyed the ride and is ready to get to work ahead of the 2022-23 season.

“Just keep watching all the guys and how hard they work to make sure the team is winning. Blocking shots, winning battles and all that stuff. Learning from all the veterans,” he said.

The Rebels will host the Edmonton Oil Kings for the final game of the regular season Saturday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium. The season series is tied 3-3 between the two long-time rivals.

Edmonton is locked into second place in the Eastern Conference, while the Rebels have secured third. There’s still work to be done, according to Konowalchuk.

“I don’t think we change anything that we’ve done all year. The compete level was good from the start, we kept it up all game. You just want to continue that,” said Konowalchuk.

“Make sure systems and structure and that kind of stuff is dialed in. I think that’s real important, as much as playing hard. You want to make sure the system and structure is dialed in and carry that into the last game and get going for playoffs.”

The WHL Playoffs are set to begin on April 22.

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