Red Deer Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe will almost certainly be selected in this year’s NHL entry draft and he’s obviously looking forward to the experience.
But perhaps even moreso, he’s anticipating a healthy return to the Rebels in the fall and a productive and successful 2021-22 Western Hockey League season.
That’s completely understandable, considering he’s currently well on his way to recovering from a knee injury and subsequent surgery in March that limited him to six games in an already abbreviated 2021 season.
“Hopefully everything goes well this weekend,” he said on Monday, referring to the NHL draft slated for Friday and Saturday. “But I’m looking forward to getting that done and then moving on and focusing on getting ready for the season.
“But I’m definitely excited for it (draft).”
Grubbe suffered a torn ACL during a March 13 game versus the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes and underwent surgery in Red Deer a little over a week later.
The Calgary native is currently in the process of restoring the strength in his knee, a procedure that’s been multi-faceted to say the least.
“It’s getting there. I’m back on the ice now so that’s nice,” he said.
“It feels pretty normal actually, it’s just a matter of getting that strength back. Just getting that bit of quad muscle back to normal is the biggest thing right now.”
His rehab has included mobility exercises in an attempt to restore a full range of motion and weight training to build the hamstring and quad muscles.
“Now I’m working out in the pool and running and biking with my trainer,” he added. “I’m just doing what I can to rebuild muscle.”
Normally, the NHL stages a combine for draft eligible prospects in June of each year, an event that was called off this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Grubbe and his agent have been in contact with a number of interested NHL teams.
“The last two months or so it’s been pretty busy with phone calls and Zoom calls, either involving myself, my agent or the Rebels,” he said.
Central Scouting ranks the six-foot-three, 201-pound center 63rd among North American skaters for the NHL draft. That ranking could very well be higher had he played a full season earlier this year.
Rebels defenceman Kyle Masters (pictured below) is also expected to be selected in this weekend’s draft. He’s ranked 93rd among North American skaters by Central Scouting.
Grubbe, who plays a complete two-way game with an added edge of physicality, scored once and added two assists during his brief 2021 season after putting up 29 points (6g,23a) during his rookie campaign of 2019-20. He also notched a goal and added two helpers in five games with Canada Black in the World Under-17 Challenge in November of 2019.
Now he’s pumped about the prospect of playing a full season with what he believes will be a greatly improved Rebels team, a squad that has added overage forward Liam Keeler and netminder Connor Ungar via the trade route. In addition, the 2021-22 team will be boosted by the return of Finnish defenceman Christoffer Sedoff and the addition of Czech forward Frantisek Formanek, who was selected in this year’s CHL import draft.
“I just want to get back and have a full season in front of fans. I’m definitely excited for that,” said Grubbe.
“Looking at our group, we’ve made a couple of moves that will help us with depth. Sedoff is coming back and we’ve added another Euro. And then everyone, including the core, is a year older.
“I think everything is looking great for us. I’m pretty excited about the group we have.”
Masters, meanwhile, has been on the ice nearly every day since facilities re-opened in the province.
“With everything opened back up we have access to rinks, which is really good,” he said. “I’ve just been skating and training.”
Masters, like Grubbe, will be close to his phone and computer this weekend.
“I’m definitely counting down the days now,” he said. “It’s been a lot of waiting.”
He and his agent have been in contact with NHL teams via Zoom.
“Just Zoom calls. It’s kind of the best we have now for face to face interactions,” said the Edmonton product.
The smooth skating, puck moving defenceman missed three games in the abbreviated 2021 season due to injury, but that was mild compared to his WHL rookie season in which he appeared in only 24 contests.
The six-foot, 175-pound rearguard was injured in the 2019 World Under 17 Challenge after registering three assists in four games with Canada Red.
He went on to play 24 games with the Rebels, scoring twice and adding one assist, and this past season he had 10 helpers in 12 games.
Like Grubbe, he’s looking forward to putting in a full season in 2021-22 in the presence of spectators.
“It will be great to have fans back in the rinks. We missed the fans this season,” he said.
The Rebels will open training camp in early September and will play their first preseason game Sept. 11 at Edmonton.
The following weekend, Red Deer will engage the Calgary Hitmen in a home-and-home set — Sept. 11 in Calgary and the following night at the Centrium — and will wrap up exhibition play with two games against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Sept. 24 on the road and Sept. 25 at home.
The Rebels will open regular season play on Oct. 1 against the host Edmonton Oil Kings, who will visit the Centrium the following evening.