Red Deer Rebels winger Jaxsen Wiebe is a younger version of former Brandon Wheat Kings antagonist/star forward Jayce Hawryluk.
That the two are first cousins has something to do with the similarity, but what nails down the resemblance is that Wiebe plays the same heavy, hard-hitting style as his older kin.
“I think we’re similar in ways,” Wiebe said Friday prior to a Rebels practice session at the Centrium. “The way he was tenacious on the forecheck . . . he wasn’t afraid to hit either, so we’re similar like that.”
Hawryluk exceeded the century mark in both points and penalty minutes during his final season with Brandon (2015-16) and has scored eight goals in 50 games with the Florida Panthers over two seasons.
“He’s been a role model for me just because he played in the Western Hockey League when I was just young and I always dreamed of being in the Western League,” said Wiebe.
“I always looked up to him and tried to model my game after him. He’s been an influence in my career for sure.”
The 17-year-old Moose Jaw native was selected by the Rebels in the seventh round of the 2017 WHL bantam draft and is in his first season with the club after playing junior A with the SJHL Nipawin Hawks last winter.
His development at the major junior level has been noticeable to the point where he’s been one of the Rebels’ more consistent forwards in recent weeks.
“At the start of the season there was a lot of nerves just getting used to the league,” said Wiebe. “Since about the 10-game mark, or around there, I feel like I’ve gotten more comfortable with more step in my game and just making better plays, more comfortable plays.”
That Wiebe has transitioned rather quickly to the major junior game can be credited somewhat to his experience at the junior A level.
“Just playing against older guys really helped me as a tool in my development,” he said. “You had to keep your head up at all times, you had to learn how to finish hits and take hits.
“Playing against 20-year-olds, with six on each team . . . they’re older guys so you have to learn to play the game in a different way. It was a more mature game and you just had to adapt to it and improve.”
A second-round pick of the Hawks in the 2017 SJHL bantam draft, Wiebe scored 13 goals and collected a like number of assists in 48 regular-season games with Nipawin and contributed another seven points, including two goals, in seven playoff contests.
He’s already proven he can score at the major junior level with five goals to this point in the season, but his strong points are his speed and physical style.
“I think ever since you could start hitting (in minor hockey) it felt good to make a solid check,” said the six-foot-one, 200-pound winger. “I think I’ve just kept that throughout the years and getting bigger and more mature . . . it sure helps when you can finish checks and be an impact in the game that way.
“Those are two of my big assets — my physical play and ability to finish checks well. I have to keep using those and I will.”
The Rebels head into Saturday’s contest with the visiting Regina Pats having lost their last three games while surrendering 24 goals. Included is Tuesday’s 6-4 setback in Swift Current where Red Deer outshot the Broncos 58-22.
Wiebe is confident the situation will turn if the club gets back to playing a tighter defensive style.
“We just have to go back to playing like we can, being a hard to play against team that finishes checks and uses our speed in the corners and down low,” he said. “Most importantly we have to play solid in the defensive zone.
“I think we have to start locking things down in the D zone and limiting the goals against. That should bring success to us.”
Chase Coward, signed by the Rebels last week, has been summoned to the team with veteran netminder Ethan Anders listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The 16-year-old is expected to start in the Red Deer net Saturday.
Rebels vs. Regina Pats
Saturday, 7 p.m., Centrium
Regina entered Friday’s game at Calgary with a 5-15-2-0 record and sat sixth in the East Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Three of the team’s wins have come in the last 10 games . . . Former Rebels RW Austin Pratt, prior to Friday, was leading the Pats scoring parade with nine goals and 19 points. LW Carson Denomie, acquired recently from Moose Jaw, was next in line with 16 points (6g,10a) while LW Robbie Holmes (9-6), C Ty Kolle (8-7) and D Zach Wytinck (2-13) who played four preseason games with the Rebels in 2016 before being traded to Brandon and ultimately dealt to Regina earlier this season, had each contributed 15 points . . . G Max Paddock entered Friday’s game with a 3.52 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Rookie back-up Danton Belluk had numbers of 4.13 and .846.
Injuries: Regina — LW Carter Massier (lower body, indefinite), C Cole Dubinsky (upper body, day-to-day). Red Deer — G Ethan Anders (lower body, day-to-day), D Kyle Masters (lower body, week-to-week).
Special teams: Regina — Power play 14.4 per cent, 19th overall; penalty kill 80.4 per cent, 13th. Red Deer — Power play 17.3 per cent, 17th overall; penalty kill 77.6 per cent, 16th.