Wednesday’s announcement that Reese Johnson will be the Red Deer Rebels captain next season caught no one within the organization by surprise.
Clearly, GM/head coach Brent Sutter sees the veteran forward as the consummate leader and Johnson displayed that with his dogged, take-charge style of play while serving as an assistant captain in 2017-18.
“To be honest, it was a no-brainer,” Sutter said Thursday. “When I told some of the players, they were pretty excited.”
Johnson has indeed been one of the more popular players in the Rebels dressing room and was selected by his teammates as the winner of the Players Award for the 2017-18 season. He was also named — by the coaching staff — as the club’s most under-rated player.
“That was definitely pretty cool, especially winning the players one voted on by all the guys,” Johnson said from his home in Saskatoon. “I’ll remember that forever, for sure.”
Johnson joins a long and impressive list of Rebels official on-ice leaders, including his brother Wyatt, who was named captain in 2015.
“Obviously it’s an honour to be named captain for the Rebels,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked for. I like to be a leader on the ice.”
Normally, Sutter would not have appointed a captain until early next season.
“But I just felt it was important to do it now so everyone, all the players, know who their captain is next year,” said the Rebels boss. “Reese is going to be communicating with the players during the off season.
“They have a lot of respect for him as a leader and he’ll be talking with the players this summer and making sure that they’re staying on top of things (in regard to their training programs).
“They’ll respect the fact that they’ll be hearing it from the captain.”
Johnson, who will turn 20 July 10, will lead a team that will be particularly young up front.
“We know that a lot of the guys coming back are going to be younger, but I think we’ll have a good leadership group with some of the returning guys that have been here for a while,” he said. “They’re all good leaders as well and I think we’ll be good as a team like that.”
Meanwhile, the Rebels announced Thursday that associate coach Jeff Truitt will not return for a seventh season with the club.
“From a GM’s perspective I know what the head coach wants for a coaching staff and to be able to make that work I have to work within the budget we have,” said Sutter.
“It has nothing to do with Jeff’s coaching abilities. We had a very good six years here together. But it’s major junior hockey and you can only do so much (financially).”
Notable: Outgoing Rebels captain Grayson Pawlenchuk has signed an ECHL contract with the Wichita Thunder, a minor league affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. The 21-year-old winger will join the Thunder for a pair of season-ending games this weekend against the Colorado Eagles.