Mason McCarty is returning to his WHL roots.
The Red Deer Rebels acquired the 20-year-old centre from the Saskatoon Blades in return for the club’s second-round pick in Thursday’s WHL bantam draft.
McCarty was selected by the Rebels in the fourth round — 74th overall — of the 2012 draft. He appeared in five games with Red Deer in the 2013-14 campaign and nine more the following season before being shipped to the Blades as part of a December trade that brought defenceman Nelson Nogier to the Rebels.
With the Rebels slated to return only two overage players in forward Grayson Pawlenchuk and netminder Lasse Petersen, whose future with the club is cloudy, there was room for a third 20-year-old.
“We have an overage spot available and we’re still undecided about what we’re going to do about the goaltending situation. That might not be decided until September or October,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
McCarty scored a single goal and recorded two assists in 14 games with the Rebels but the former UFA Bisons midget AAA star gradually found his offensive game with the Blades. He scored 18 goals and collected 28 points in 64 games in 2015-16 and had 21 goals and 37 points in 45 outings this past season.
“We needed to add some punch to our lineup and Mason is a guy who can provide that,” said Sutter. “Mason has turned himself into a really good hockey player and he’s hard to play against. We like that about him too.
“We’re excited about bringing him back. He’s someone we’re familiar with and he’s certainly a different player than he was when he was 17. He’ll fit in well with our group.”
McCarty is equally as thriilled about the change of address, and he’s not surprised by the turn of events considering the Blades had six players with the potential to return as 20 year olds.
“I kind of figured I’d be going somewhere and when I found out I was going to Red Deer I was pretty excited,” he said from his home in Blackie.
“It’s a first-class organization. The last time it wasn’t the outcome I wanted but I’m more mature as a person and a player now so it will be good.”
The five-foot-10, 185-pound forward is confident he can step into a top-six role with the Rebels especially coming off a strong — albeit injury- shortened — 2016-17 season.
“Last summer I focused a lot on improving instead of just kind of being average and squeaking by,” he said. “I worked hard last summer and this summer I’m going to do the exact same but more to come back and have an even better year and help the team be successful.”
• The Rebels selected centre Ethan Rowland with their first pick — 22nd overall — in the WHL bantam draft Thursday.
Rowland scored 14 goals and collected 39 points while racking up 52 minutes in penalties in 34 games with the Calgary Northstar Sabres in 2016-17.
With their third-round pick (from Seattle) the Rebels nabbed five-foot-10, 166-pound centre Jordan Borysiuk of Mannvile, who had 16 goals and 40 points in 30 games with the Pursuit of Excellence Academy in Kelowna.
Red Deer took left winger Kyler Kovich of Vancouver in the fourth round. Kovich, five-foot-11 and 160 pounds, exploded for 67 goals and 139 points in 67 games with the Burnaby Winter Club team and was also an astounding plus-125.
Defenceman Jace Isley of Grande Prairie was picked by Red Deer in the fifth round. Isley is five-foot-11 and 177 pounds and recorded one goal and added 14 assists in 23 games with the OHA Academy in Edmonton.