Anders will battle for berth as Rebels back-up netminder
Quite clearly, Ethan Anders was the supreme force that allowed the offensively challenged Tisdale Trojans to advance to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League final this past spring.
After posting a goals-against average of 2.48 and a save percentage of .922 in 26 regular-season appearances, Anders stepped up his game even more in the playoffs, recording impressive stat lines of 1.75 and 9.36 in nine outings.
Ever the team player, the 16-year-old netminder — who will celebrate his 17th birthday in September — insisted Saturday that he had plenty of regular-season and post-season support.
“Personally, I had a pretty good year,” he said, following a Red Deer Rebels prospects camp session at the Penhold Regional Multiplex. “I had a really good defence to help me out. We picked it up in the playoffs, for sure.”
Rebels director of scouting/player development Randy Peterson insisted Anders was the glue that held his midget team together, particularly down the regular-season stretch and through the playoffs.
The Rebels listed Anders midway through the season and the six-foot-one, 180-pound Regina product took his game to another level from that point on.
“We’ve kind of tracked him even since he was a bantam,” said Peterson. “He had a solid year (2015-16) in midget AA in Regina (recording a 2.88 goals-against average) and he had a really good year in Tisdale.
“He carried his team to the league final. It was a team that was a little light on scoring. They were out-manned quite often.
“After we listed him his confidence rose and he had a great playoff run. We couldn’t be more pleased that we managed to get him at the right time.”
Perhaps partly due to the fact he was a shorter netminder at five-foot-nine, Anders was passed over in the 2015 WHL bantam draft and attended the Edmonton Oil Kings camp as an invited player.
The Oil Kings didn’t show further interest in Anders, who was heartened when the Rebels came calling last winter.
“I got picked up and thought ‘this is a shot. I have a shot at making this league and it’s definitely something I want to push towards’,” he said.
“I just knew I had to work hard. I was shorter (as a bantam) and they (WHL teams) look for taller goalies. But then I grew and that’s helped a lot.”
Anders doesn’t see himself as a netminder who relies on any particular technical skills to get the job done.
“I’d describe myself as a hard worker,” he said. “But I’m getting more technical, I’ve got most of the techniques down now.”
According to Peterson, the young stopper has impressed his past bench bosses with his work habits and temperament.
“His coaches all talk about his compete level,” said Peterson. “He’s always been one of those kids who coaches really believe in.”
Anders, who was in Red Deer in late March to learn more about the organization and watched the Rebels’ first two playoff games versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes, will be one of four netminders seeking regular employment when the club’s training camp opens in late August at the Centrium.
Returnee Riley Lamb, who turns 19 this year, is the front-runner for the starter’s job, although 20-year-old Lasse Petersen may stay in the picture if he’s not dealt through the summer.
Regardless, it’s likely that either Anders or 16-year-old Byron Fancy, the Rebels’ first pick in the 2016 bantam draft, will start the season in Red Deer in a back-up role.
Anders, while a year older than Fancy, doesn’t necessarily envision himself as the favourite to earn the job.
“I’ve had two years of midget, but it will be based on whoever plays better, whoever comes out and performs better,” he said. “Whoever works harder will probably get the spot.”
If Anders falls short, it won’t be due to a lack of character, Peterson insisted.
“He’s just a solid kid and it looks like he’s going to have a heck of a chance here,” said Peterson. “He and Byron can push each other.”
The Rebels prospects camp concluded Sunday morning.