Rebels boss thrilled with talent on display during prospects camp
The 2017 Red Deer Rebels prospects camp — held Friday to Sunday at the Penhold Regional Multiplex — represented a high-water mark of sorts for GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“I think it was arguably the best camp we’ve had with the talent and skill level that was on the ice,” Sutter said Monday. “To have a bit of everything . . . there was a lot of talent, a lot of speed and lots of size.
“The guys who are maybe smaller in stature right now are very gifted players with skill and speed.”
The three-day affair featured 27 mostly drafted and listed players, all of whom were accompanied by parents. The players and parents also attended a barbecue hosted by the Rebels and were taken on tours of the city, featuring stops at St. Gabriel Learning Centre — where the school-age players attend — the Centrium and the Rebels dressing room and training facilities.
“It was a really successful camp in the sense that it was very informative for all the parents, for them to see not just the hockey side, but the city, everything we have at the rink and also the schooling and how we do that now,” said Sutter.
“It was an awesome weekend. We got input from what the parents are thinking, so it was good that way. And yet the kids were awesome. They’re a great group of kids and from their perspective it was really good for them because now they have an idea of what other guys are like in our system, and where they’re at and what everyone needs to work at to get better.”
The players met with Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter and director of scouting and player development Randy Peterson Saturday evening, following the two-hour on-ice session.
“Shaun and Randy sat down with the kids on Saturday night and went through things they need to work on the rest of the summer and how they can improve,” said Brent Sutter.
“Overall, it was really, really good. I really liked the fact that we decided to go with it for a fifth year now. It just continues to get better and better.”
At the conclusion of the prospects camp, Sutter signed 2001-born forwards Ethan Rowland and Jordan Borysiuk to WHL education contracts. Calgary native Rowland was the club’s first pick — 22nd overall — in this year’s bantam draft and Borysiuk, a product of Mannville, was the team’s second selection, taken in the third round (63rd overall).
A long list of players — including 2001-born forwards Zak Smith of Austin, Man., Justin Svenson of Iles des Chenes, Man., River Fahey of Campbell River, B.C., and Arshdeep Bains of Surrey, B.C., defencemen Ryan Gottfried of Winnipeg and Nick Draffin of Lethbridge, and goalie Byron Fancy of Claresholm, and 200-born forward Austin Schellenberg of Grande Prairie and goaltender Ethan Anders of Regina — who signed with the Rebels last season also attended the camp.
Forward Chase Lowry of Edmonton, who celebrated his 17th birthday in May, also signed with the Rebels last year but was unable to attend the camp due to an injury.
Sutter is also hopeful of signing forward Jayden McCarthy of Morris, Man., who turned 16 in February, in the near future.
“We really think he can make a push to play on our team this year,” said Sutter. “Not having very many natural centremen on our team, we really think he can come in and make a push. In fact all of the 16s will get a good look in training camp (in August).
“All of the signed 16s and 17s will push to be here next season, that’s what’s exciting about our camp coming up in August. Their roles to be to try and knock someone who’s older out of our lineup and off our roster. They have the capabilities of doing it because some of these kids are very highly skilled, very intelligent players.”
That group also includes 2000-born rearguards Hunter Donohoe and Sam Pouliot from the Vancouver area, both of whom stood out during the weekend.
McCarthy, as Sutter noted, was among the premier forwards in camp.
“I really like him as a player. He’s a very smart, heady player and is very smooth in how he plays. He’s a very intelligent player,” said Sutter.
“That’s very encouraging and what makes it even better for us is he’s a great kid, which they all are. He comes from a great family, which they all do.
“Part of our program is not only do we want good players, we want good people who come from good families. That’s what made the weekend so cool in itself. All the parents were awesome. You get a chance to meet them and spend time with them and you can understand why their kids are the way they are.”
Just notes: Sutter will attend the WHL annual meetings next week in Vancouver and the scheduling meeting the following week. Other events of note are the NHL entry draft — in which Lane Zablocki and possibly fellow forward Austin Pratt and defenceman Carson Sass will be selected — June 23-24 in Chicago and the CHL import draft the week after . . . Fancy is one of 16 goaltenders slated to attend the Hockey Canada U17 development camp June 9-11 in Calgary.