With one eye on his hockey future, Red Deer Rebels center Josh Tarzwell can’t help but feel the frustration caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Poised to play his final season in the WHL, the local product is more than ready to build on his breakout 2019-20 campaign, but like everyone else doesn’t know when the puck will eventually drop.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he has plenty of company among the league’s overagers.
“It’s really tough, especially going into my last year,” he said. “All the other 20-year-olds in the league feel the same way. Most of us are fighting for pro deals and like, what are we going to do after this.
“It feels like a kick in the can really, but all we can do is be optimistic and not get down because no one else is playing either. As soon as we start playing it will feel just like normal again.”
In the shortened 2019-20 season, Tarzwell showed the potential the Lethbridge Hurricanes saw when they selected him in the second round — 24th overall — of the 2015 WHL bantam draft.
The six-foot-one, 205-pound power forward sniped 32 goals in 63 games after scoring 11 times the previous year, his first full season with the Rebels after being acquired from the Hurricanes in December of 2017.
“I think I was playing with more confidence,” he said of his breakout season in which he adopted a more complete two-way game and used his strength and heavy shot to score on a consistent basis.
“Obviously being a well-rounded player is important and really something to thrive for. And I just decided that shooting more was going to be the thing that I did,” he said.
“Brent (Rebels GM/head coach Sutter) tells me I have a good shot and I just made it my goal to try and get five or six shots on any given night if I could and eventually the puck was going to go in.”
When the 2020-21 WHL season does start, Tarzwell will be more than ready to prove that his 32-goal output last winter was no fluke.
He skates two to three times a week at the Penhold Regional Multiplex with a group that includes Rebels skills/assistant coach Erik Lodge, plus works out on a daily basis at The Dome Red Deer, where he’s employed as a supervisor.
“I’ve been working out since about three weeks after the season ended. I’ve been going hard,” he said.
Tarzwell starts his day with a 7:15 a.m. exercise session at The Dome, which features a full gym with trainers as well as soccer and baseball fields, and then often works a 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 shift.
“I help set up and supervise, making sure everything is running smoothly,” he said. “A lot of soccer and baseball teams are using The Dome because of the restrictions on the outside facilities.
“We make sure everyone stays six feel apart and that everything is clean in there. I clean up after everybody, sanitizing everything.”
With his proven ability to score at the major junior level and his penchant for powering his way into sniper territory, Tarzwell clearly has pro potential.
“That’s the goal, to get a pro (contract),” he said. “I want to do even better this season. My expectations must be higher, I want to go into the season with the right attitude.
“This year is going to be the biggest year of my career to date.”
While he’s confident that the ’20-21 season — which is tentatively slated to open Oct. 2 — will be successful for himself, Tarzwell has similar feelings regarding the entire team.
“Chances are we’lI be playing against the Central Division teams a lot more just because of the way everything is,” he said. “And I feel we’re going to have a really strong team. I fully expect to be a winning team this year.
“I’ve never been on a really successful team and I feel like that’s going to happen this season.”