Rebels acquire rugged winger MacKenzie from Blades
He might be just what the doctor — or at least the Red Deer Rebels — ordered.
Looking to add some grit and tenacity to his roster, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter acquired 18-year-old forward Lukus MacKenzie from the Saskatoon Blades Thursday in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.
The six-foot-two, 203-pound winger is a tough customer who plays hard and with an edge.
“He adds an element that we felt like we were missing,” said Sutter. “If you want to have success there has to be a higher compete level.
“He’s a big, strong kid who skates reasonably well for a big guy.”
The Calgary native, selected by the Blades in the third round of the 2014 bantam draft, joined Saskatoon as a 16-year-old and scored two goals and added 10 assists in 52 games.
He netted six goals, recorded 28 points and racked up 75 minutes in penalties last winter and this season has collected four assists and accumulated 22 penalty minutes in 13 outings.
“He’s obviously not going to be an offensively explosive guy for us, but he’s a guy who can chip in and bring other elements to your team that you need to have, elements we were lacking,” said Sutter.
“He’s a kid who can play and he’s hard on pucks. There’s a reason why he was drafted in the third round. Shaun (Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Sutter) liked him the year he was drafted.”
While MacKenzie hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success offensively at the major junior level, the Rebels boss is confident he’s capable of producing more — and living up to the potential he showed as a WHL rookie — if granted a bigger work load.
“Now it’s just about giving him the opportunity he had when he was 16,” said Sutter. “He might not have got as much of an opportunity as he would have liked last year and this year, so we’ll see.
“It’s all part of it. You want trades to work out for everybody involved. Hopefully they (Blades) will get a good draft pick out of it and hopefully we have a player we can work with and get his confidence back up to where it needs to be.
“Hopefully we can fill an important role for us, not just now but in the future as well.”
The Rebels were en route to Regina Thursday and will meet the Pats Friday night. Red Deer will take on the Broncos Saturday at Swift Current before returning home to practise for three days prior to heading west.
The Rebels will open a five-game road trip Nov. 10 in Kamloops, a jaunt that will also include stops in Kelowna, Victoria and Vancouver and finally Cranbrook, where they will face the Kootenay Ice Nov. 17.
Red Deer’s next home game is Nov. 18 versus Kootenay.
On the injury front, Rebels netminder Riley Lamb is close to returning from an upper body injury and forward Mason McCarty is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. McCarty sat out Wednesday’s 4-2 home-ice loss to Seattle.