Rebels prospect Fahey excelling in preseason play
Entering his first actual game at the major junior level, River Fahey admitted he was somewhat wary of the unknown.
“I was pretty excited, kind of nervous . . . legs were a little bit jittery. But once I got out there, after warmups, and after the first shift was done, it went away,” the Red Deer Rebels prospect forward said Monday, following a practice session at the Centrium. “I got my feet moving and tried to keep up with the big boys out there and it seemed to work out for me.”
Indeed, it did. Fahey, in fact, notched the winning goal in Friday’s 5-3 Western Hockey League preseason triumph over the visiting Calgary Hitmen.
Then, proving that the decisive marker was no fluke, the 16-year-old tallied twice in a 3-1 conquest of the Edmonton Oil Kings 24 hours later. Both were timely goals, the first being the winner — again — and the second an empty-netter that nailed down the victory.
Talk about a dream come true.
“I think there’s been a couple dreams of those (winning goals), but I never thought it would actually come true,” he said.
Fahey has developed at a rapid rate since last season, even since the Rebels prospects camp in June.
“He’s certainly been a tremendous and a pleasant surprise for us,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “He had a real good prospects camp, he came a long ways from where he was last year.
“And over the last two months he’s just improved . . . he’s just gotten better and better. It’s been really a positive thing for him and us.”
Fahey scored two goals and added two assists in 20 games with the Pacific Coast Academy elite 15 and prep teams last season before moving to the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the BC Major Midget League and recording six points (3g,3a) in 22 contests.
This summer the Campbell River, B.C., native trained 155 km down the highway in Nanaimo with family friends and current and former WHL players Dylan (Tri-City) and Ryan (Saskatoon, Prince Albert) Coghlan.
“I thought skating with guys who have been in the league would help me get there,” said Fahey.
He has now arrived and is on the verge of gaining regular-season employment with the Rebels. While he’s already shown that he has an offensive flair, he’s also right at home playing a physical style.
“I’m more like a third-line guy for this league. I like to chip pucks out, chip pucks in, take the body whenever I can . . . be a force out there,” said Fahey.
At a half inch short of six-foot-two and rocking the scales at 191 pounds, he certainly has the size to play that game.
“It’s great. Genetics help,” said Fahey.
“What I like about him is he’s a real smart player, plus he has a really high competitive edge to him,” said Sutter.
“He’s big, he’s strong and he competes. He’s got skill and the other thing he has is his hockey IQ is really high.”
Fahey, obviously, is a player on the rise, a prospect whose game has grown leaps and bounds in short order.
“I can easily tell the difference between last year’s camp and this year’s camp,” he said. “The feedback has been great. Being told I’ve been getting way better has been a real confidence-builder. It’s really good to hear.”
Just how much more and how much quicker Fahey will develop remains to be seen, but Sutter is confident the best is yet to come based on the degree of the youngster’s drive and ambition.
“He just really wants to become a player. His attitude is outstanding,” said the Rebels boss.
The Rebels will travel to Kennewick, Wash., Thursday to compete in the Tri-City Americans preseason tournament.
Red Deer will take on the hosts Friday and will meet the Portland Winterhawks Saturday, before returning home to prepare for their final exhibition game — Sept. 16 versus the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Rebels will open their regular-season schedule Sept. 23 at home against the Oil Kings.