Brent Sutter has always insisted that sleep is over-rated.
Clearly, he feels the same way about any form of inactivity. The Red Deer Rebels general manager was his usual industrious self this week, burning up the phone lines and wearing his fingers to the bone with e-mails, all in an attempt to continue to rebuild his club.
He found yet another dance partner on Thursday, swinging a deal with the Regina Pats that sent forward Colten Mayor and defenceman Stephen Hak to the Queen City in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2015 bantam draft, with the sixth-rounder being conditional on Hak sticking with the Pats.
Mayor was a healthy scratch in the last two games and Hak had already been reassigned to Steinbach of the MJHL, so in essence the Rebels didn’t give up a regular roster player. Besides, with 27 players — including Kayle Doetzel and Wyatt Johnson, both injured — on the roster, bodies had to be moved.
Mayor, who scored three goals while appearing in 11 of the Rebels’ 13 games to date this season, was mostly an anonymous figure during training camp, preseason play and into the regular season. He showed flashes now and then, but not enough for a 19-year-old who was expected to be a top-six forward in this, his fourth WHL campaign.
“With Colten, it was a situation where he struggled through training camp and the exhibitions and never had a great start to the season,” said Sutter. “He lost a position in our top nine forwards to six other wingers. They all out-played him.
“Colten is not a fourth-line player, he’s not going to be effective if he’s not in your top nine forwards. We had to make a decision.”
Sutter sees the deal as a win-win, with both players getting a second chance and the Rebels gaining two more chips to use in their reconstruction.
“With Hak, this gives him an opportunity to see if he can still play in the league,” said Sutter.
“We also wanted to give Colten an opportunity and he wanted an opportunity somewhere else in the league. It was a mutual understanding that I would do what I could to help him out with that.
“It worked out well in the sense that he gets to go back to where his family is originally from. His grandparents live in Regina. He knows people there so it’s a good situation for him.”
And so the rebuild continues.
“I don’t think there’s any secret to what I’m trying to do here,” said Sutter. “I’m trying to build something where we can be a consistently very good team for year, after year, after year. Not a sporadic team.”
Sutter and the scouting staff feel they have a head start in that direction with a fine crop of ‘95- and ‘96-born prospects and they certainly have reason to be excited about the 15-year-olds, seven of whom have been selected to compete in the upcoming Western Canada Under-16 Challenge.
The list includes forward Adam Musil and goaltender Taz Burman from B.C., Alberta products Mason McCarty, Brayden Burke and Grayson Pawlenchuk, all forwards, and defenceman Austin Strand, and forward Meyer Nell of Manitoba.
“It says a lot about those kids and just not what we think of them but what others think of them too, in their own provinces,” said Sutter.
All but Burman have been signed to a WHL standard education contract.
“And we’re hoping to sign him (Burman) at some point,” said Sutter. “We like him a lot and we want him to be part of this organization. To have six of them signed at this point is exciting, knowing that they’re all quality players.”
l Sutter wasn’t the only wheelin’ and dealin’ GM this week, as the Prince George Cougars acquired goaltender and Red Deer native Mac Engel, 19, from the Spokane Chiefs, the Medicine Hat Tigers picked up overage stopper Cam Lanigan from the Portland Winterhawks and the Blades and Swift Current Broncos completed a deal on Thursday that involved Red Deer product Graeme Craig.
Engel was sent home to Red Deer by the Spokane Chiefs two weeks ago to await a trade.
“It’s just awesome to get the opportunity to play again,” Engel told Sheri Lamb of the Prince George Citizen. “It was kind of hard sitting at home, not playing anymore. I’m just ready to get back on the ice. I’ve missed it.”
As for the 19-year-old Craig, the six-foot-five, 215-pound defenceman was sent to the Blades by the Broncos in exchange for forward Brent Benson, 19.
“We wanted to add some size and some grit,” Molleken told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, in reference to Craig. “This is a player we feel is hard to play against on the back end and that can log a lot of minutes for us. We’re counting on him being a difficult guy to play against.”