Red Deer Rebels rookie Garrett Valk lights up when he shares stories about his dad.
The 15-year-old defenceman didn’t get to see his Dad Garry play in the NHL, but he’s certainly heard about it. Garry played close to 800 games in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.
Garrett was born in October of 2002, also Garry’s final year in the NHL.
“He was really good, he always helped me. I was always on the ice with him almost every day. I wouldn’t be here without him. He’s my mentor,” Garrett said about his dad.
For his whole life, Garrett has played forward. He had dreams of scoring goals like his dad did in the NHL, until he made the switch to defence last year at West Vancouver Hockey Academy.
The Rebels have him listed as a forward at camp, but he played on the back end in the first scrimmage on Saturday and even scored a goal. The young defender hopes to make a name for himself at the position but is open to playing wherever the Rebels need him.
“I stuck with it and I know Red Deer likes me as a versatile player,” he said.
“On D, you can see the ice way better and (have) more time with the puck. I like to skate a lot so I skate with the puck and there’s more room back there.”
Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter said the versatility is a huge asset for Garrett and believes that he has fit in well at main camp in the first week.
“He’s a competitive guy and a smart kid. He’s a guy that wherever he has gone the coaches always want to spend a lot of time with him because he’s a good learner and a good kid,” Sutter said.
“Those are the types of guys, everywhere they go people want to give them every opportunity. Anyone who is like that in our organization does get a lot of opportunities.”
Garrett wasn’t selected in his Bantam Draft year, but the Rebels listed him last year and invited him to prospect camp in June. Since then he sprouted to his now six-foot-one, 185-pound frame.
He impressed so much at that camp that he earned an invite straight to main camp this week.
“It was mainly because he had the versatility to go up and play forward and also play some D,” Sutter said.
“There are a lot of good defencemen in the organization, but with him having the versatility to go play up front, it allowed him the opportunity to go straight to main camp. He’s grown a lot and is still getting his legs under him and getting everything going in the right direction. He’s got a pretty good ceiling.”
The Vancouver native will suit up for the Northwest Vancouver Giants of the BC Major Midget Hockey League in the 2018-2019 season. He’s looking forward to the challenge and hopes he’ll be back with the Rebels in the near future.
“I just have to work on my skating. I’m playing Northwest Giants this year. That’s major midget so it’s a good league and good to come up to the WHL from,” he added.