With few veterans remaining, Rebels forward Chris Douglas helps guide the ship

Chris Douglas still remembers his first game.

He put a visor on his helmet for the first time ever leading into it.

The nerves were high stepping on the ice for that induction into the WHL at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

“I came (to Red Deer), first time wearing a visor in the morning skate. We went right to Prince Albert. That rink, you’re getting in the trenches in Prince Albert,” recalled Douglas. “It’s a tough game, I remember I was terrified. I was nervous. I’ll never forget that first game.”

That seems like forever ago for the now 19-year-old winger, who is one of only a few on a Rebels club that is among the youngest teams in the WHL this season.

He remembers Brent Sutter taking a chance on him, bringing in an undrafted kid from Richmond, B.C. and not knowing what the future would hold.

Now 205 games into his WHL career, Douglas said Thursday that it’s flown by, that it still seems like just yesterday he was putting on the Rebels jersey for the first time.

“Just first coming here when I was 16, I’ll never forget the beginning. It was kind of a whirlwind for me coming here,” said Douglas, who was playing with the Greater Vancouver Canadians in B.C. in January of 2017 when he was called up.

“Brent pulled me out, I was just an undrafted player and he believed in me, so I’m always appreciative of him for doing everything he has for me.”

It was two weeks ago on home ice, when Douglas heard Rebels play by play man Cam Moon mention on the video board that it was his 200th game. Douglas didn’t even realize.

“It was kind of a shock when I heard Mooner over the PA system say I was at 200 games. I didn’t even know. It’s been a long time, it’s kinda crazy. It flies by in this league,” Douglas said.

“You always hear people say don’t let it fly by, enjoy it well it lasts. You’re like ‘oh yeah, I will’, but it really does. The older you get, the quicker it goes. Wouldn’t change a thing.”

This season has been an interesting one for the talented right winger. He’s found a level of consistency that hasn’t quite existed before this season, in part spending the majority of the year with Arshdeep Bains on the other wing. Douglas considers Bains a good friend and along with Ben King in the middle, the group has been one of the most productive lines for Red Deer this season.

“A lot of skill. They have three guys who move the puck well and obviously (Douglas) and (Bains) played together all year, they’ve really built some chemistry. Three B.C., kids,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville.

“There is a lot of chemistry there, when you put Kinger in there, he’s an incredibly smart player, he gives us some stability in the defensive zone. He’s good at getting pucks to Bains and Douglas. In the offensive zone, they get a lot done.”

Douglas has 27 points in 41 games, second on the club. His 0.66 points per game, if kept up, would also result in a career-high.

“More consistency this season. I think last year as an 18-year-old, you could see the progression,” said Colville.

“I think last year he started off well and had a bit of a dip. It ended a lot better. This year, he’s been good all the way through.”

Douglas, as one of the veterans on a Rebels club knows it might be a rocky road for the final 27 games this year. But as a guy who’s been through it all in four seasons, he’s hoping they can all just enjoy the ride.

“It’s mostly a focus thing. We really have to make sure that you treat every game in this league like you have to win, like it’s a playoff game or teams will crush you. It doesn’t matter, there’s no mercy,” he said.

“That really has to be the mindset, that’s something our kids are still learning. They’re doing a good job with it.”

The Rebels hit the road Friday in Lethbridge, then return home for the first time in two weeks Saturday night against the Prince Albert Raiders.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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