In his fifth WHL season, Red Deer Rebels forward Brett Davis has something to prove.
To himself, to the league and to his teammates, Davis is more motivated in his final WHL campaign to leave a lasting legacy.
With that on his mind and on a team with only a handful of veteran players, the Oakbank, Man. native understands he needs to be a good example for the entire Rebels roster.
“I love being a leader wherever I go. I’ve been in the league five years now and I know how it works. Know what to help them with day in and day out,” said Davis, who will serve as an alternate captain this season.
“I just want to win as a team. It’s my last year in the league. That’s the biggest thing, I want to win and have fun. The main goal is to make playoffs and make a push.”
Last season was full of ups and downs for the six-foot-one, 192-pound centre.
He was on fire when he arrived in Red Deer alongside Cam Hausinger on Nov. 29. He had eight points in his first four games, before going five games without a point. During another stretch just after Christmas, he picked up 10 points in five games. In the final 27 games of the regular season, he had just 13 points.
If Davis was disappointed with how last season went, the 20-year-old has washed it from his memory in hopes of a fresh start.
In his only preseason game this year, he had a goal and an assist. He’s looked like a man possessed through training camp and was a dominant force in all areas of the ice.
“He’s come back with a great attitude, he’s been really good through exhibition and all our practices,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“He really wants to learn. He’s gotten stronger, which helps with confidence too. He’s been very competitive in practice. He’s been a hard-working player through training camp and preseason, we just need to make sure he continues with that process.”
That’s much like what Brandon Hagel looked like last year during the start of his 20-year-old campaign and all he did was earn a NHL contract from the Chicago Blackhawks.
While not front of mind for Davis, it exists as a constant reminder about what he’s striving for this year.
“I think everyone kind of thinks about that a lot,” he said.
“It’s something you can’t really control. The only thing you can control is how you play and prepare. Obviously, it’s a goal of mine to sign a contract, but the main goal is team first and getting wins.”
Finding consistency and doing the little things right night in and night out will be the biggest areas where Davis needs to improve. As a natural leader, he has that aspect settled heading into the year.
“Just as a 20-year-old player there’s more expectations and he needs to put them on himself, too. He needs to be a leader on the team and with Brett, it’s just about being consistent and being a good player every night,” Sutter said.
“Battling, competing hard and wanting to play to how we play. He’s got skill, and we need him to bring his skill out. It can’t be where in areas where it’s affecting our team by quality scoring chances against. He takes a lot of pride in playing both sides of the puck.”
On the offensive side, Davis will be a huge piece for a group that lost almost 50 per cent of their goals from last season.
He’s almost a lock to improve on the 10 power play goals (six in Kootenay and four in Red Deer) that he scored in 2018-19. On top of his own play, Davis said the hockey fans shouldn’t sleep on the young Rebels’ talent to produce this season either.
“I like to see myself as an offensive player for sure. I do my best to produce and play good defensively as well,” he said.
“These young players we have, they’re skilled, too. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of them put up good numbers, so it’ll be interesting.”
Sutter said in conversations this summer with the former Dallas Stars 2017 sixth round pick, there was some clear motivation for the veteran heading into the year.
“Brett’s a great young man and he’s finding his way how to play the game. Sometimes guys pick it up later than others. He’s shown he wants to be committed to it,” Sutter said.
“He’s been a driven player and we need him to keep doing that. He’s gotta play with that emotion and that desire. Be good at what you’re good at. If he’s going to be a good power play guy and five-on-five guy, be as good as you can be at that.”
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. in preseason play, before wrapping up the exhibition season with an afternoon affair on Sunday in Calgary against the Hitmen.