The Red Deer Rebels got their first win in over a month on Tuesday and it was the second-straight day of good news for the club.
On Monday, four Rebels were named in the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings, a list that usually provides a pretty good indication of where players will be selected in the upcoming draft.
Through the struggles of the rebuilding club, associate coach Jeff Truitt says having four players on the list is a small nod to their development and culture. The four players on the NHL radar was only bested in the WHL by the Vancouver Giants, who had five.
“We’re a hard-working team and that’s what we pride ourselves on. Anybody who takes a look at our team — these guys who are identifiable and maybe not on the radar yet, very well could be because of the program we have,” Truitt said.
“It’s nice to know people are watching your players because of the type of program you’re running.”
Rebels defenceman Alex Alexeyev was the highest ranked player on the team as the 26th best North American skater. Earlier this month he was ranked 22nd out of the top 31 prospects by the International Scouting Service.
His defence partner Jacob Herauf, who was number 203 on the central scouting list, said Alexeyev just has a special ability to see the ice in a way that most players can’t.
“He sees the game differently than everyone else. He’ll make plays that guys in the pros aren’t even making. That’s just the kind of guy he is. He can move the puck quickly and he can skate. He’s offensive too but defensively he’s not a liability either,” said Herauf.
Currently, Alexeyev leads all Rebels’ defenceman with six goals and 25 assists in just 37 games, which sits 18th across all WHL defenders.
Even with those numbers, Truitt said he has seen Alexeyev develop and really grow as a player this season but still thinks the young Russian defender has enormous untapped potential.
“I think you’re seeing a very smart player, who’s got a very solid foundation and who is always building and layering other avenues in his game that’s making him better,” said Truitt.
“If you can be an efficient defenceman by moving pucks quickly and not getting bunched up in the traffic, that makes a better play for you and your teammates. At times he can be physical and finish guys off. ”
Kristian Reichel is another Rebel who cracked the Central Scouting radar, as the 80th ranked North American skater. The forward from Czech Republic is enjoying a breakout campaign in his first season in North America. He currently sits third in WHL rookie scoring with 16 goals and 15 assists in 39 games.
The Rebels selected Reichel 27th overall in the CHL Import Draft last summer.
“He pushes the pace with his puck play and work ethic is relentless. Right from practice to games. He’s very consistent in that. You never doubt his effort,” Truitt said.
“He’s got a tremendous shot. Great vision on the ice as well. He’s turned into a pretty good leader in our dressing room as well.”
For his own ability, Reichel said it’s been fun learning the North American game and he thinks there have been a few places where he’s been able to excel.
“I’m going to the net more often and I’m trying to shoot from lots of places on the ice because you can score goals from the corner. Trying to improve my skating a little bit and I’ve improved my shot a lot,” Reichel said.
Seven of the forward’s 16 goals have come on the power play, many of those of the one-timer variety from the top of the faceoff circle. Herauf said Reichel’s shot sets him apart and on the man advantage, the Rebels are simply trying to get it onto his stick any way they can.
“He does everything right. His shot obviously, he’s got a cannon. His work ethic and leadership ability,” Herauf said about the forward.
“On the power play just feed it to him and he’ll unleash it.”
Rebels defenceman Dawson Barteaux also cracked the Central Scouting list at 156.
Red Deer will host the Kelowna Rockets Saturday, before ending their eight-game homestand with a Sunday contest against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.