Chad Robinson believes in giving credit where credit is due.
The 17-year-old forward from Minnedosa, Man., counts his midget hockey coach of the last two years as the person most responsible for his impressive development as a player.
While with the Yellowhead Chiefs of the Manitoba Midget AAA League, Robinson was mentored by the highly-respected Garth Mitchell, who was recently named head coach of Team West for the 2011 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge to be played Dec. 28-Jan. 4 in Winnipeg.
“He’s just always positive, telling you that you’re doing great,” Robinson, one of 30 players remaining on the Red Deer Rebels roster, said Friday. “Garth is probably the biggest influence I’ve had in hockey. And he knows so much about the game. He’s taught me a lot.”
Robinson was one of 11 Manitoba players selected to Team West last year for the 2010 World U17 Challenge in Timmins, Ont., where he suffered a concussion in a pre-tournament game but competed in the event regardless.
“I played all the tournament games but I probably shouldn’t have,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss it, it was an unbelievable experience, although I didn’t play up to my standards (due to the concussion).”
The injury was diagnosed following the international event and Robinson sat out the remainder of the MMAAAHL regular season in which he had already sniped 16 goals and accumulated 39 points in 30 games. He returned for the Chiefs’ brief playoff run, scoring twice and adding two assists in two games.
“Overall, I had a great year,” he said. “I think I improved quite a bit over the course of the season.”
Robinson’s 2009-10 campaign also included three regular-season Western Hockey League games with the Rebels. He was held pointless during the audition, but is confident he’s better prepared to play at the major junior level because of it.
“The few games I played (with the Rebels) gave me some valuable experience and told me where I was as a player. I was playing against so many bigger, stronger guys and that helped me realized where I had to get to,” he said.
Robinson hit the weights during the summer months and checked into the Rebels camp last weekend carrying 168 pounds on his five-foot-10 frame. He showed the coaching staff through camp and Wednesday’s Black and White intrasquad game that he’s a WHL-ready, two-way player.
“I know the importance of playing a two-way game,” he said. “I’m just doing what the coaches ask and trying to keep it as simple as I can.”
Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin sees a more complete player in Robinson than was the case last fall.
“He’s a year older and a little more confident. And after playing a few games with us last winter he understands the pace of play in this league and what a big step it was to get to this level,” said Wallin.
“He’s just a very intelligent young hockey player. He’s very responsible and a very good skater. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s always in the right position and he’s smart in his own zone, he supports his defencemen well.
“He also has very good awareness in the offensive zone. He’s just a real intelligent, dependable guy who’s a character-type kid, and you know what you’re going to get from him every night.”
The Rebels open their five-game preseason schedule Wednesday at Airdrie where the Calgary Hitmen will supply the opposition. The clubs will hook up again Saturday at Innisfail at 7:30 p.m.