Sutter prepared to stand pat at trade deadline
If the Red Deer Rebels stand pat at Tuesday’s Western Hockey League trade deadline, it’s because the team, as it stands, consists of 16 players who weren’t part of the 2015-16 Memorial Cup tournament host edition.
In other words, the Rebels already have a rebuilt squad and GM/head coach Brent Sutter likes what he has in terms of potential through the remainder of the current campaign and in seasons to follow.
“Right now we’re running status quo,” Sutter said Monday. “If something changes, it will change, but we’ve (already) made a bunch of moves this season. When you look at our roster, there are seven players who came here by trades and overall we have 16 players who weren’t here (full-time) last year.
“Unfortunately, that’s what you have when you’ve hosted the Memorial Cup, but you have to look at it in terms of where you’re going to be at and we’re very fortunate we have some depth with our younger players.”
Sutter is confident the Rebels goaltending is fine moving forward with Lasse Petersen possibly returning next fall as a 20-year-old and Riley Lamb and prized prospect Byron Fancy also squarely in the picture.
In addition, with the exception of current 20-year-old Colton Bobyk, the Rebels will return their entire defensive corps next season.
As far as this season is concerned, Sutter made a pair of impactful moves by acquiring defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus (from Seattle) and forward Austin Glover (from Prince Albert) in the last week of December.
Glover, in particular, clearly looks line an impact player, as displayed by the fact he’s riding an 11-game point streak and has contributed a goal and three assists in three games with his new club. Sutter deemed it necessary to add and older forward when he lost 19-year-old winger Grayson Pawlenchuk for the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery.
“No question, ‘Gloves’ has come in and helped us,” said Sutter. “It certainly hurts us losing ‘Pawly’ for the year. Let’s not kid ourselves — we lost a very dependable top-four forward.
“But with the price we paid (for Glover, who cost the Rebels little-used rookie forward D-Jay Jerome and a third-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft) I think we got good value. He’s going to help us and he adds to that line with (Adam) Musil and (Evan Polei). He gives us some speed and skill on that line.”
Winger Brandon Hagel is still out with a nagging injury, but once he returns the Rebels will have another scoring line also featuring Michael Spacek — who will play tonight versus the visiting Prince George Cougars after missing Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Lethbridge — and Austin Pratt.
From there, Jeff de Wit centres Dawson Martin and Cam Hausinger and Red Deer’s ‘fourth’ line consists of Jordan Roy, Matt Campese and any assortment of Akash Bains and up to three younger skaters.
“We like our team. If we play the right way and do things the right way we can compete with anybody,” said Sutter.
If the playoffs started today, the Lethbridge Hurricanes would be the Rebels first-round playoff opponent. The ‘Canes added two 20-year-old scoring forwards Monday in the persons of Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro — both acquired from the Kootenay Ice — but Sutter insisted that any deal he makes Tuesday will not be in retaliation to the Lethbridge moves.
“What others do doesn’t have an impact on how we run our team,” said Sutter. “They (Hurricanes) certainly added two pretty good 20-year-old players, but they also traded a pretty good 20-year-old out (forward Ryley Lindgren, to Swift Current) as well as two younger players (to Kootenay).”
Based partly on the fact his squad lost to Lethbridge Saturday mainly due to the play of ‘Canes netminder Stuart Skinner, Sutter is confident the Rebels could be more than simply competitive in a post-season meeting with their southern Alberta foes.
“We just played them, we know what type of team they are,” said the Rebels boss. “They’ve just added two good 20s and we didn’t have two of our top six forwards in our lineup Saturday.
“I think it would be a heck of a series. When both teams have a full lineup I think we match up well.”
Rebels vs. Prince George Cougars; Tuesday, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Cougars are coming off a 4-2 home-ice win over the Victoria Royals Saturday. Prince George is 7-3-0-0 in the last 10 games and with a 28-11-2-0 record occupy first place in both the B.C. Division and the Western Conference . . . The Cougars added LW Nikita Popugaev to their already impressive roster last week, acquiring the six-foot-five Russian from the Moose Jaw Warriors. Popugaev, 18 years of age and ranked as a likely first-round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft, is the Cougars’ top scorer with 23 goals and 53 points in 42 games. He has a goal and an assist in two games with his new club. C Jansen Harkins is next with 40 points (10-30) in 35 games, while C Brad Morrison (16-23-39), LW Jesse Gabrielle (19-24-33 in 33 games) and overage LW Colby McAuley (14-16-30) have each reached or surpassed the 30-point mark. Adding depth to the forward ranks are C Kody McDonald (9-19-28) who has recorded a team-high 74 minutes in penalties, and LW Jared Bethune (11-16-27) . . . D Brendan Guhle, acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders in November, has contributed four goals and 11 points in 14 games with Prince George. Selected by Buffalo in the second round of the 2015 NHL entry draft. Guhle played three games with the Sabres in early December . . . Ty Edmonds is third among WHL goaltenders with a 2.16 goals-against average. Edmonds, 20, has a 22-7-1 record with one shutout and a .921 save percentage.
Injuries: Prince George — LW Bartel Bison (upper body, week-to-week). Red Deer — LW Brandon Hagel (upper body, day-to-day), D Jacob Herauf (lower body, day-to-day), RW Reese Johnson (upper body, indefinite), LW Grayson Pawlenchuk (lower body, indefinite).
Special teams: Prince George — Power play 16.4 per cent, 18th overall; penalty kill 87.1 per cent, first. Red Deer — Power play 17.1 per cent, 17th overall; penalty kill 76.9 per cent, 15th.