Could Jayden Grubbe be the complete package?
The Red Deer Rebels’ first selection in Thursday’s WHL bantam draft stands six-foot-one, weighs in at 181 pounds and captured the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League scoring title this past season.
He scored 29 goals and registered 66 points while racking up 104 penalty minutes in 35 regular-season outings with the Calgary Bisons. And to top it all off, he’s a centre.
Impressive, to say the least.
“We really believe that you have to build your team up the middle and when you can get a No. 1 centreman like that with that skill set and other qualities with his edge and strength and power . . . everyone is looking for those guys,” said Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter.
Indeed, there was no way the Rebels were going to pass on the Calgary native with the seventh overall pick of the draft conducted at the Red Deer Sheraton.
“Jayden is a big guy, a big strong kid who can really skate,” said Sutter. “He’s got good skill, he can make plays and he can score. And he’s a guy who always has a presence on the ice, a guy that people are afraid of because he’ll run you through the glass.
“He’s a physical presence out there. There’s not a lot of guys with his skill set, his physicality, his presence or his edge, so he’s definitely a unique player and one who is hard to find.”
Before surging over the final two months of the 2017-18 season, it appeared that the struggling Rebels would receive at least a top-three selection in the draft. During the club’s lengthy down time, Grubbe was already in their sights.
“Even when we were potentially picking first overall we had decided he was one of the guys we wanted to key on. So for us to get him at No. 7 we feel pretty fortunate,” said Sutter.
Reached in Philadelphia, where he’s playing in a tournament with the Western Çanada Selects, Grubbe confirmed Sutter’s on-ice description of the 15-year-old.
“I’m a bigger, physical player who can take the puck to the net,” he said.
Grubbe will be eligible to join the Rebels full-time in the fall of 2019 and is looking forward to playing just up the highway from his hometown and family.
“I’m definitely real excited to be close to home with a great organization and a great coach in Brent Sutter,” he said.
After collecting 33 points (15g,18a) as a first-year bantam, Grubbe broke out in a big way in ’17-18 and went on to collect seven points (4-3) in five playoff games and scored three goals and added one assist in five games with Calgary South in the Alberta Cup.
“I think I got a lot better in just kind of all areas of the game, defence, offence, speed,” he noted.
Grubbe also got into one game with the minor midget AAA Calgary Rangers during the season, scoring twice.
“It wasn’t so much more skilled than bantam,” he said of the higher level, “just more physical.”
The Rebels snared five-foot-10, 139-pound defenceman Kyle Masters of the Edmonton OHA prep team with their second first-round pick — courtesy of a 2017 trade with the Regina Pats — and took six-foot, 161-pound rearguard Trey Patterson of the Calgary Bisons in the second round, 28th overall.
“He’s a guy who plays fast, he has quick hands and quick feet. He sees the ice really well and he can dance around a puck,” Sutter said of Masters, who potted seven goals and recorded 26 points in 29 regular-season games and added one goal in four playoff outings and five assists in five games with Team Edmonton Yellow in the Alberta Cup.
“He has some real good offensive upside and he’s also a competitor,” added Sutter. “He’s played forward and ‘D’ with the way the game has split now with speed and puck transition. Kyle also shoots right-handed and it’s hard to find right-handed defencemen.
“We said at the beginning of the St. Albert tournament (in January) that he’d be a guy we’d be happy to get with that pick. To walk away with him at 16 . . . we feel fortunate.”
Masters’ father Kevin was a Rebels defenceman as a 20-year-old in the team’s inaugural season of 1992-93, and has spoken positively to his son about the experience.
“I’m excited, like really excited. Red Deer is close to home and my dad played there. He likes the organization and we like the schooling part of it . . . not only the team but the stuff they do off the ice,” said the younger Masters.
The offensive-minded defenceman, who turns 15 in September, was in math class when he was drafted Thursday morning but didn’t find out the good news until later.
“Our teachers said we have to leave our phones at the back of the class,” he explained. “When I came out of class everyone said ‘congrats’.”
Sutter sees the club’s second-round pick Patterson as a heady blueliner with the ability to chip in offensively.
“Patterson is a really smart, steady player,” said the Rebels assistant GM. “He has a quick brain and sees the ice well. He’s got some offensive upside but still needs to work on his shot.”
Patterson scored four goals and added 21 helpers in 36 regular-season games with the Bisons and also suited up for four games with the minor midget AAA Calgary Blackhawks, registering an assist in the process.
He also had a goal and five points in nine AMBHL playoff outings and two assists in five Alberta Cup games with Calgary South.
“He’s a guy we said we’d be happy to get in the second round and that’s the way it worked out,” said Sutter.
The Rebels had two third-round picks and after taking forward Josh Medernach 50th overall, dealt the second pick to Seattle for the Thunderbirds’ sixth-round selection and their third next year.
“With Medernach, all of the guys who have coached him describe him as a glue guy, a player who will go through the wall for you,” said Sutter. “He’s a character kid who comes from a character family.
“He can skate, has skill and can make plays. He’s a guy who always plays well in playoffs because he’s a gamer.”
Medernach, a five-foot-10, 160-pound Lloydminster native, garnered 16 goals and 36 points in 30 games with Edmonton OHA.
“I think every team is happy today, but I like the mix that we got. The kids complement each other and that’s important,” said Sutter.
“I think we have a good mix of size. That’s the thing about 14- and 15-year-olds — you don’t know if they’re going to grow much more.
“Masters, for example, could have the ability to be a dynamic defenceman and whether he’s 5-11 or six feet we feel that’s still going to be pretty good. If it’s anything more than that, then it’s a bonus.”
The Rebels also dealt one of their two ninth-rounds picks and their 10th-round selection to the Kelowna Rockets.
Following are capsule summaries of the Rebels’ fourth- to ninth-round picks (statistics include regular-season and playoff games, unless otherwise noted, and all players are born in 2003) with quotes from Shaun Sutter:
Fourth round, 72nd overall.
Jeremy Hancock (Defence, six-foot-four, 170 pounds)
Birth date: 03-02; Hometown: Melfort Sask.
2017-18 stats: 31GP, 2g,10a, 12 pts., Edmonton OHA Bantam Prep.
“Jeremy is a huge kid who’s going to go back to Saskatchewan and play triple A midget in Tisdale next season and that’s a real good league for him to develop. He can skate and sees the ice pretty well. He’s still developing an aggressive side and as he gets more confidence that something that will come out. He has the ability to be a big, hard guy who’s tough to play against.”
Fifth round, 94th overall
Chase Bertholet (Forward, 5-8, 137)
Birth date: 03-17; Hometown: Thompson, Man.
2017-18 stats: 36GP, 30-38-68, Norman AAA Wolves.
“He’s kind of a sneaky good player in that he’s got skill sense, skates well and has real good offensive ability. He just needs to get stronger, but he’s a guy who can really make plays. He’ll play next year with the midget triple A Prince Albert Mintos and has the potential to maybe be a real good offensive player at our level.”
Sixth round, 120th overall
Dylan Lacroix (Goaltender, 6-1, 159)
Birth date: 05-14; Hometown; Calgary.
2017-18 stats (regular season only): 21 GP, 3.54 GAA, .895 save percentage, Calgary AAA Northstar Sabres.
“He’s a guy with size and athleticism who really moves well, and a guy who I think with continued technical training has the ability to be a really good goalie one day. There’s a lot of athleticism there, which is something we really targeted.”
Seventh round, 138th overall
Hunter Brown (Forward, 5-10, 146)
Birth date: 07-21; Hometown: Fort St. John, B.C.
2017-18 stats: 29GP, 43-24-67, Fort St. John AA Flyers.
“He played double A bantam so that’s a bit off the map, but he has some grit, he can skate and he can make plays. We just like that he shows some drive as a player and he’s a guy we wanted to pick later. Brent (Rebels GM/head coach Sutter) made a good point when he said guys who have that drive and are competitive as late round picks are the ones who find a way to be a player.”
Eighth round, 160th overall
Zane Winter (Goaltender, 6-3, 165)
Birth date: 04-27; Hometown: Carlyle, Sask.
2017-18 stats (regular season only): 23GP, 3.45 GAA, Estevan AA Bruins.
“He’s a guy who was really affected by the fact there wasn’t a SaskFirst (season-end provincial tournament) this year. We felt that he was the best goalie in Saskatchewan. He’s a really big kid with a lot of athleticism, similar to Lacroix, and we wanted to take a chance on him and see how he develops.”
Ninth round, 182nd overall
Dylan Fader (Forward, 5-11, 150)
Birth date: 03-03. Hometown: Vancouver.
2017-18 stats: 35GP, 38-73-111, St. George’s School Varsity.
“He played on the same team — which was varsity, not prep — as Trevor Wong (Kelowna Rockets’ first-round pick). He has skill, good hockey sense and he can shoot. He showed that when Wong wasn’t playing that he could be the go-to offensive guy on that team. We think he’s kind of a sneaky type player who could maybe be an offensive player, be a top-six forward for us at some time. He’s kind of in the mold of Arshdeep Bains, who we listed after the (2016) draft. We feel Fader maybe has similar upside.”
Notable: Seven Central Alberta players were selected in the draft, including goalie Drew Sim of Tees, who went to the Vancouver Giants in the third round, 46th overall. The others were defenceman Charlie Wright of Olds (Saskatoon Blades, fourth round, 70th overall), goalie Colby Knight of Red Deer (Edmonton Oil Kings, fifth round, 92nd), centre Jayden Henderson of Sylvan Lake (Edmonton, seventh round, 133rd), rearguard Bosten Lajeunesse of Red Deer (Lethbridge Hurricanes, eighth round, 161st), forward Ty Nash of Blackfalds (Lethbridge, ninth round, 183rd) and forward Zachery Burns of Eckville (Spokane Chiefs, ninth round, 193rd) . . . For a complete rundown of the draft, go to the WHL website (www.whl.ca).