It wasn’t the easiest of seasons for both Josh Mahura and Conner Bleackley, but the two heard their names called during the National Hockey League draft.
Joined by Brandon Hagel, the three were the only Red Deer Rebels selected in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York on Friday and Saturday.
The defenceman Mahura missed almost the entire 2015-16 Western Hockey League with a knee injury he sustained in his second game. On the shelf for 70 games, Mahura returned to the Rebels lineup in playoffs and during the Memorial Cup.
On Saturday, Mahura was the first Rebel taken in the draft. The Anaheim Ducks selected the six-foot, 179 pound St. Albert native in the third round, 85th overall.
“I was in the kitchen and my parents were watching the TV and my phone rang, it was my agent,” said Mahura. “While they were telling me, my name came up on the screen. It was really exciting.
“Anaheim is a first-class organization and I’m really excited to get to development camp next week. I head out on Wednesday, I’m excited to get down there.”
In his last full season (2014-15), Mahura played 51 games, scoring two goals and six assists. He had one assist in his two regular season games in 2015-16 and two goals and two assists in the playoffs.
It wasn’t just injuries that plagued Bleackley’s tumultuous 2015-16 season. A 2014 first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, he lost the captaincy to start the season.
Then a knee injury in Januray sidelined him for six weeks.
While out of the lineup, the Avalanche traded Bleackley to the Arizona Coyotes as part of the Avs’ deal for Mikkel Boedker.
Still without an NHL contract, the Coyotes didn’t sign him. Bleackley re-entered the NHL draft and the Coyotes received a second-round draft pick as compensation.
A return to the ice lasted three weeks before Bleackley was injured again. This time is was a freak accident; a skate blade cut his wrist closing out the regular season.
But on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues gave the High River native another chance, taking him in the fifth round, 144th overall.
Bleackley tweeted: “Excited to be a part of the St. Louis Blues organization,” moments after he was taken in the draft.
In 55 games last season, Bleackley had 13 goals and 33 assists. The six-foot-one, 192 pound centreman
The last Rebel taken, Brandon Hagel, went in the six round, 159th overall to the Buffalo Sabres.
Hagel, a six-foot, 165 pound left winger, played all 72 regular season games for the Rebels.
He scored 13 goals and 34 assists. In the playoffs he had one goal and 19 assists.