Carmichael excited about new opportunity with Rebels

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

For Elias Carmichael, creating Friday morning’s feed was downright memorable.

“I was just making breakfast and got a call from Bruce saying I got traded,” said the 20-year-old defenceman, referring to Kelowna Rockets owner/president/GM Bruce Hamilton, who was informing Carmichael that he had been dealt to the Red Deer Rebels.

The Rockets, in turn, received a third-round pick in next year’s WHL Prospects Draft.

Carmichael just completed his fourth season with the Rockets, who selected the Langley, BC product in the second round, 40th overall, of the 2018 Prospects Draft.

“It’s hard leaving Kelowna. I’ve been there for four years now,” said the six-foot-three, 192-pound rearguard. “I came in as a 16-year-old young gun and I’m now getting traded as a 20-year-old. 

“It stings a bit but I’m excited totally for a new opportunity in Red Deer and I’m sure they have a real good team there.”

Carmichael scored six goals and recorded 29 points in 62 games during the 2022-23 season. Decent enough numbers, but putting up offensive stats is not one of his major objectives.

“My game is just simple first play. I won’t change that,” he said. “I’m very smart with the puck, in my opinion, and I just want to keep it that way.

“Points don’t really matter to me . . . shut down defence first and the points will come second.”

Carmichael, who played on the Rockets’ power play and penalty killing units, is familiar with Rebels defenceman Mats Lindgren, who played two seasons with Kelowna’s chief rivals, the Kamloops Blazers, before being dealt to Red Deer last year.

He also knows former Rebels forward Ben King and played alongside current Red Deer forward Craig Armstrong during a pee wee spring tournament in Winnipeg several years ago.

Rebels owner/president/GM Brent Sutter was looking to add an accomplished defender and is confident Carmichael fits the bill.

“He’s been in our league since he was 16 years of age. He has a lot of experience, he’s strong, he moves the puck well and is smart and has a great stick,” said Sutter. 

“I’ve been thinking about it since the season ended . . . Shaun (associate GM Sutter) and I talked at different times. I strongly believe that we needed someone like this to add to our defence corps, to solidify it.”

Carmichael joins a strong group of defenders in Red Deer.

The Rebels can return as many as seven blueliners next season and Derek Thurston, 17, and last year’s Prospects Draft first-round selection, Luke Vlooswyk, 16, will also be pushing for regular employment.

“Our back end is really, really good and really strong,” said Sutter, referring also to the likes of veterans Lindgren, Hunter Mayo, Matteo Fabrizi, Nicholas Andrusiak, Jace Weir and Quentin Bourne, who is coming off his rookie season.

“It’s an area I wanted to solidify. I didn’t want to get in the situation where we’re out looking for a D-man come September or October when they’re hard to find. The trade makes sense for us and makes sense for Kelowna.

“We’re excited about getting him. I think it just fortifies our back end. We know now, going into the summer, where our goaltending is at, where our defence is at . . . and we have a pretty good group of forwards.”

The Rebels also hope to select a forward in the CHL Import Draft in late June and if Jayden Grubbe and/or Kai Uchacz are back as 20-year-olds, the team will be that much better up front.

“We really like our group,” said Sutter.

Notable: Absent from Thursday’s Prospects Draft piece was the fact that five players from the U15AAA Red Deer Rebels were selected. Dermot Johnston of Olds went to Prince George in the second round and fellow defenceman Dallin Antos of Red Deer was taken by Kelowna in the fifth round. Centre Easton Daneault was a seventh-round pick of Lethbridge while Nash Nicolay of Rocky Mountain House went to Portland in the seventh round and fellow winger Kohen Lodge of Red Deer, the son of Rebels skills coach Erik Lodge, was selected by Saskatoon in the ninth round . . . Defenceman Daxon Rudolph of Lacombe, who played with the U15 Rebels in the 2021-22 season before suiting up with the Northern Alberta Xtreme last winter, was the first overall pick in the draft, by the Prince Albert Raiders. 

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