New Rebels winger MacKenzie grateful for change of scenery
Lukus MacKenzie never saw the trade coming.
Even more surprising to the big winger was the manner in which the transaction transpired.
Not that he objected to the change of address, however.
“It definitely surprised me a bit, being on the road, but I was really surprised for the opportunity,” the Calgary native said Monday, in reference to last week’s trade that landed him with the Red Deer Rebels in return for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
The deal was worked out just prior to the Blades’ game last Wednesday in Lethbridge and was announced the following day. MacKenzie suited up for his new club during narrow back-to-back losses Friday and Saturday in Regina and Swift Current.
The six-foot-two, 203-pound left winger might have been somewhat startled by the move, but he’s grateful at the same time.
“I love the environment here, it’s a lot more professional, a lot more serious. So it’s definitely a positive,” he said.
Although he’s skated with his new teammates in just two games, the 18-year-old has already noticed a change in style — and systems — between the Rebels and Blades, among other notables.
“For sure, going into games we’re a lot more structured, a lot more ready to play,” he said of his new club. “It’s definitely a culture change, from Saskatoon to the Rebels.”
In addition . . .
“It’s definitely nice to be closer to home and to have a lot more contact with my family and friends,” he said.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter acquired MacKenzie for his size, toughness and tenacity. The newest Rebel agreed that he can add those elements, and more.
“For sure, that’s what I’m all about,” he said. “I’m all about working hard, winning battles and creating energy and momentum for my team. So hopefully I can do that here.”
While he’s hard to handle physically along the boards and in the corners and will drops the gloves if needed, MacKenzie is still trying to find his offensive game at the major junior level.
He was a third-round pick of the Blades in 2014 after scoring 21 goals and collecting 66 points in 59 games with the Edge School bantam prep team. He also played in the Alberta Cup, an annual spring tournament featuring the top second-year bantams in the province.
In 123 WHL games — 121 with the Blades — MacKenzie has produced eight goals and 24 points, to go with 149 minutes in penalties.
He feels he’s capable of putting up better scoring numbers, but also takes pride in his ability to play a sound defensive game.
“I feel like I have some offensive upside, but first and foremost I make sure I’m responsible in my own end and just the hardest worker on the ice,” said MacKenzie.
For now, he’s adjusting to life with a new team. Sutter noted that MacKenzie looked more comfortable in his second game with the Rebels than was the case Friday at Regina.
The big forward didn’t argue with that assessment.
“I got to shake a bit of the rust off from my first game,” he said. “I didn’t play exactly how I wanted to (in Regina), but yeah, I felt a lot better in Swift Current.”
The Rebels are practising at the Kinsmen Arenas this week prior to departing Thursday for Kamloops, where they will open a five-game road trip against the Blazers.
Just notes: Recently released Rebels forward Dawson Martin has joined the Chilliwack Chiefs of the junior A BCHL. The 19-year-old has played two games with the Chiefs and has yet to record a point. Martin replaced another former Rebels forward, Jordan Roy, who appeared in seven games with Chilliwack — scoring one goal and adding two assists — before leaving the club and retiring from the game . . . Meanwhile, former Red Deer netminder Lasse Petersen has been added to the roster of the MJHL Portage Terriers. He made 28 saves in his Terriers debut Friday, a 4-3 win over the Selkirk Steelers.