The continually confusing case of the Red Deer Rebels

Perhaps by the time you read this, there will be more clarity than as of its writing.

The Red Deer Rebels have been an enigma in the first 39 games of the WHL season, showing flashes of brilliance while largely being stuck in second gear, taking two steps forward and three back.

They have a 14-21-1-3 record, nine points back of the Saskatoon Blades for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot.

There was some hope, after knocking off the Everett Silvertips, the top team in the west, as well as the Prince Albert Raiders, that a playoff appearance was in the cards for Red Deer.

The reality of that slipped away in the first period in Saskatoon Wednesday and it will be next to impossible to conjure it back up.

Which leads to Friday, when the WHL trade deadline arrives. Prices seem high for teams trying to make a run, with seemingly more teams ready to take a back seat with what they have. Subsequently, taking a run at the big prize next year. It’s becoming an all too common theme in sports, the rebuild or re-tool.

There are also a large number of teams that are reluctant to trade a first-round pick for the 2020 WHL Draft. That draft might be a special one, with Connor Bedard, Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager all applying to Hockey Canada for exceptional status. All three are considered top Bantam prospects for the 2020 WHL draft. No player trying to enter the WHL has ever received exceptional status, with Matthew Savoie being the latest turned down by Hockey Canada. Still, Savoie went first overall and has seen game action with the Winnipeg Ice.

So even if those three prospects don’t aren’t deemed exceptional, teams could be jockeying for a position at the top of the draft in May to try and acquire their services. Without a first-round draft selection, you’ve got no shot at that lottery.

Which leads back to the Rebels and trying to chart a path forward. They will definitely not be a team paying a high price player, but they are and have been the one asking for a high price for a few of their players. Red Deer has five draft picks in the first five rounds, including two first round picks. Ideally, it would be great to add a first rounder at the deadline. Or else, to try and add another second-rounder or third-round selection to the pile if the right offer comes from a player on the roster now. From what I understand, they also really value a roster player, if they were going to give one up.

With Moose Jaw setting the trade bar Thursday afternoon, there is maybe a market price that’s been established. The Warriors shipped Brayden Tracey and goalie Adam Evanoff and two late-round draft picks to the Victoria Royals for an 18-year-old goalie, two prospects, a first round selection in 2021, third in 2020, second and fourth in 2022.

Stay tuned Friday, as the WHL may look a lot different by lunchtime.

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