The cupboard is full

The numbers are impressive, both in terms of the quantity of top-notch prospects ready to push for regular employment with the Red Deer Rebels in the near future and — for the most part — their current statistics.

The Red Deer Rebels have high hopes for Marc McCoy.

The Red Deer Rebels have high hopes for Marc McCoy.

The numbers are impressive, both in terms of the quantity of top-notch prospects ready to push for regular employment with the Red Deer Rebels in the near future and — for the most part — their current statistics.

The almost-ready-for-prime time crew also possesses a mixture of size, character and two-way skills, and near the front of the class are defenceman Kayle Doetzel and forward Cory Millette, the Rebels’ first two selections in last year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft.

Doetzel, taken 12th overall in the 2010 draft, has been ravaged by injuries this winter — to his ribs, his wrist and now his shoulder, an ailment that didn’t allow him to join the Saskatchewan team for the Canada Winter Games and will keep him on the shelf another two weeks. Still, the six-foot-two, 188-pound rearguard has scored four goals, added four assists and racked up 50 minutes in penalties in 14 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts.

“It’s been a disappointing time for Kayle, but I know his midget coaches are really high on him,” said Rebels director of scouting/player development Randy Peterson. “He’s a big part of their team, a real physical presence who gives them a big shot from the point on the power play.

“From the few times that we (Rebels scouts) have seen him this season, it sure looks like he’s going to be one of those kids who should be able to play (in the WHL) when he’s 16, once he gets these injuries out of the way.”

Millette, meanwhile, is an offensive force with the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals. The five-foot-10, 175-pound winger is the Generals’ top scorer and the most offensively prolific rookie in the Saskatchewan AAA League with 22 goals and 51 points in 31 games, good for eighth overall.

Millette, selected 34th overall in last year’s bantam lottery, celebrated his 16th birthday last month and is with Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games. He’s also appeared in one game with the Rebels this season.

“He’s struggled through a lot of adversity. His father just passed away, so he’s gone through a heck of a lot. But he’s a mature kid,” said Peterson.

As for Millette’s skill set . . .

“Even though he’s a ‘95-born player, I don’t know if there are many players in his league who are better below the hash marks,” said Peterson. “Cory has a very good compete level and he’s very smart with the puck. He has a great touch around the net and he has the ability to set people up.

“Jesse (Rebels head coach Wallin) said he didn’t look out of place (in Red Deer’s 5-0 win over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes Dec. 30). He has to get a little quicker but that’s coming along and he’s a kid who will continue to work at that.”

Marc McCoy played one regular-season game with the Rebels last fall before being reassigned to the midget AAA Edmonton Southside Athletics and is one of several ‘94-born forwards who have a solid shot at playing in Red Deer in 2011-12.

McCoy sniped 12 goals and garnered 37 points in 30 games with the Athletics this season and was a major contributor as his team won the championship of the Calgary Mac’s tournament. He was named to the Mac’s second all-star team and is an Alberta Midget Hockey League North Division first-team all star.

“Marc has had a strong year and you know what he brings to the table every night,” said Peterson. “He has a mean streak and he thinks the game pretty well. He just has to work at getting a little quicker and we think that will come.

“He’s a big body (six-foot-two,175 pounds) and plays like a Red Deer Rebel, the way Jesse Wallin wants our boys to play.”

Other ‘94-born up-front skaters who will be in the mix for regular employment with the Rebels next season are Chase McMurphy, Joel Hamilton, Brooks Maxwell, Mason Burr and Jackson Playfair.

Among these prospects, McMurphy is playing at the highest level — with the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In 55 games, the six-foot-two, 180-pound Chestermere native has scored 10 goals and contributed 22 assists.

“Chase is really competing hard. He’s figured that out and is having a real good year,” said Peterson.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is the leading scorer with the Edge Academy prep team with 21 goals and 54 points in 33 games.

“He’s another kid who’s going to be knocking at the door (next fall),” said Peterson. “All of these guys are looking good right now.”

Peterson was referring also to Maxwell, Burr and Playfair, all of whom are playing — or in the case of Maxwell, played — at the midget AAA level this season.

Maxwell scored seven goals and recorded 21 points in 23 games with the Lethbridge Y’s Men, whose season ended last weekend as the team failed to qualify for the AMHL playoffs.

“Jesse has talked about bringing him up to practise with us now that his season is over,” said Peterson. “Brooks is another strong, young player who reminds me a bit of (former Rebel and current Washington Capital) Boyd Gordon, not to say that he’ll be an elite player.”

Burr was a candidate to crack the Rebels roster last fall, but didn’t impress the coaching staff during pre-season play and was reassigned to the UFA Bisons. Injuries curtailed his first year with the Bisons and the Airdrie native finished regular-season play with three goals and 11 points in 15 games.

“He had some bad luck with an ankle and then a back injury,” said Peterson. “But he remains a good prospect. He’s a signed (WHL education contract) player and he’ll be given every opportunity to make our team.”

Playfair is a six-foot-two, 190-pound forward with the Fraser Valley Bruins of the BC Major Midget League. In 25 games, the rugged 17-year-old has scored 13 goals and recorded 27 points to go with 56 minutes in penalties.

“He’s a similar player to Locke Muller, with a little more skill. He’s another guy who’s knocking at the door,” said Peterson.

The recently-listed Tad Kozun, who turns 18 next month, could also get a long look up front next fall.The Prince Albert midget AAA Mintos star — referred to the Red Deer scouts by former Rebels head coach Peter Anholt — has tallied 19 goals and contributed 30 helpers in 41 games.

“He’s kind of in the Brett Ferguson mold . . . that’s a good comparison,” said Peterson. “He has the same hockey sense and close to the same numbers as Brett had when we listed him.

“Brett had to learn some things, like how to condition properly to be ready for a WHL season, but he could play and think the game. This kid (Kozun) is similar. He has to get a little quicker but he might be a touch better than Brett was at the same age.”

A pair of 16-year-old Central Alberta forwards — Scott Feser and Scott Ferguson — are on a tear in the Alberta Minor Midget AAA League after being drafted by the Rebels last year, but could be at least one season away from playing at the WHL level.

Feser, a Red Deer product who skates with the IROC Chiefs, and Sylvan Lake native Ferguson, a member of the North Star Chiefs, are tied for fifth place in South Division scoring with 44 points apiece. Ferguson has scored 25 goals, while Feser has 17.

“We’re really impressed with the numbers they’re putting up,” said Peterson. “They’re leading their teams in scoring and they both provide a lot of leadership. They’re skilled and they compete hard.”

Peterson feels the duo will likely play with the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs next season.

“We’ve had a lot of kids over the years go from bantam AAA to the midget 15-year-old league, then to midget AAA and the WHL at the age of 17,” he said. “These kids should be able to take another step next year at the (midget) AAA level, but you never want to count them out (as 2011-12 Rebels candidates). You look at Adam Kambeitz . . . . he jumped in at 16 when we thought he’d be playing midget AAA.”

In regards to the most vital position on any hockey club, Bolton Pouliot looks like a definite keeper. The 16-year-old opened the season with the big club before reassigned to the midget AAA Calgary Royals in November.

Since then, the Calgary native is undefeated in regular-season play. His numbers with the Royals are impressive — a 7-0-2 record with a 1.61 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.

“He’s played more lately and has been very strong. He was also very good at the Mac’s tournament,” said Peterson, who sees Pouliot and Dawson Guhle as the front-runners to handle netminding duties next season.

Following are updates on the other prospects on the Rebels’ protected list (with birth year, stats and quotes from Peterson):

l Spencer Kryczka (‘95, forward, Calgary Blue minor midget AAA, 15GP-6G-10A-16Pts)

“He’s struggled a bit this season but he finishes his checks well and competes hard every shift. He’s coming along even though he’s had a bit of a tough year in terms of being sent down (from major midget AAA), which turned out to be a good thing for him since he’s getting a lot more ice time. He’s a big kid who thinks the game well. He’ll be a good player.”

• Alex Orth (‘95, goal, Abbotsford midget AAA, stats unavailable)

“He’s playing OK. He’s a big kid . . . six-three, six-four, much like the monster goalies that we see a lot of lately.”

•Kevin Pochuk (‘95, defence, Winnipeg Warriors city midget AAA, 26-4-16-20)

“He’s having a pretty good year and has some really good upside for growth. He’s six-foot now and was five-10 when we drafted him (last year), so he should eventually be a six-three kid. He’s mobile and we really like the way he moves the puck.”

• Dawven Berggren (‘95, defence, Saskatoon City midget AAA)

“He’s affiliated with the (midget AAA) Contacts. He’s played a number of games with them this year and will likely be with them full-time next season.”

• Tyson Maton (‘95, defence, Spruce Grove minor midget AAA, 27-1-10-11, 106 PIM)

“Tyson is a late-round pick, a projection player who still has to get his feet under him. But he’s a smart player and a big kid at six-three. It’s just a matter of being patient and hard work on his part to get himself ready to play here at 17.”

• Davin Stener (‘94, defence, AJHL Drumheller Dragons, 54-2-18-20, 87 PIM)

“He’s a 5-10 guy so he wants to make sure he separates himself from the stay-at-home defenders by being a good power-play, puck-moving guy. He’s doing that in junior A and showing that he’s the real deal.”

• Danys Chartrand (‘94, defence, Winnipeg Wild midget AAA, 44-3-9-12)

“He’s playing on a real good back end with a lot of WHL draft picks. He’s a pro skater who’s having a pretty good year. He just has to make sure he competes a little better.”

• David Heath (‘95, defence, Southwest Cougars midget AAA, currently with Team Manitoba at Canada Winter Games, 40-0-13-13)

“David is six-three now and a key member of his team, which is in first place in their division. He’s coming along really well as a list player and is another guy who will soon be knocking on the door.”

• Zach Rakochy (‘93, goal, SJHL Melville Millionaires, 3.45 GAA, .907 save percentage)

“Zach is the No. goalie with his junior A team and is having a good season. Hopefully he’ll get another shot here.”

• Will Heseltine (‘95, goal, Calgary Blue minor midget AAA, 3.11 GAA, .907 save percentage)

“He’s one of the best goalies in his league and although he’s pretty raw we feel he has a ton of upside. He’s a big guy at six-five and gives his team a chance to win every night.”

• Dallas Bergstrom (‘95, defence, Leduc minor midget AAA, 26-5-14-19)

“He’s a key player with his team, a puck-moving guy. He’s a real smart competitor who skates very well.”

• Tanner Jaillet (‘93, goal, Red Deer midget AAA, 2.87 GAA, .896 save percentage)

“Tanner has had a pretty good year and will get a good look with us (next fall).”

• Nick Hermary (‘95, forward, Vancouver NE major midget, 36-9-13-22)

“He’s a smaller, skilled player.”

• Dexter Bricker (‘95, forward, Swift Current midget AAA, 37-5-5-10)

“He’s a sparkplug type, in the Derek Dorsett (Columbus Blue Jackets) mold with maybe not quite the same skill level.”