Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Kids In Town

What better way to celebrate the arrival of June than to hit the ice for hockey practice!

This weekend, 21 skaters and 3 goaltenders will hit the ice at the Penhold Multiplex for the 2012 Red Deer Rebels Spring Prospects Camp. 
The group of players is comprised of the Rebels entire 2012 WHL Bantam Draft class, the entire 2011 class (minus one), and a number of other players the Rebels have added to their 50-player protected list along the way.  They will be split into two squads for the duration of the weekend.  Here's how the teams break down...

G - Matt Mitchell (1995, Calgary) - listed
D - Haydn Fleury (96, Carlyle SK) - 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2011 WHL Bantam Draft
D - Alexander Winters (97, Kamloops) - 6th round, 118th overall, 2012
D - Tanner Reynolds (96, Calgary) - listed
D - Bo Hanson (97, Idaho) - 7th round, 145th, 2012
F - Adam Musil (97, Burnaby) - 1st round, 6th, 2012
F - Meyer Nell (97, Manitoba) - 5th, 96th, 2012
F - Rod Southam (96, Saskatoon) - 6th, 131st, 2011
F - Brett Smythe (96, St. Albert) - listed
F - Earl Webb (96, Calgary) - 7th, 153rd, 2011
F - Mason McCarty (97, Blackie AB) - 4th, 69th, 2012
F - Cole Chorney (96, Beaumont) - listed

G - Grant Naherniak (96, Moose Jaw) - 5th round, 109th overall, 2011 WHL Bantam Draft
G - Taz Burman (97, Vancouver) - 2nd, 30th, 2012
D - Vukie Mpofu (96, Saskatoon) - 4th, 87th, 2011
D - Jake MacLachlan (96, Fernie BC) - 9th, 197th, 2011
D - Austin Strand (97, Calgary) - 3rd, 48th, 2012
F - Conner Bleackley (96, High River) - 1st, 21st, 2011
F - Grayson Pawlenchuk (97, Ardrossan) - 4th, 74th, 2011
F - Daniel Nault (97, Penticton) - 8th, 162nd, 2012
F - Lynnden Pastachak (96, Beinfait SK) - listed
F - Anthony Orubor (96, Calgary) - listed
F - Brayden Burke (97, Edmonton) - 7th, 145th, 2012
F - Chase Thudium (96, Sylvan Lake) - 8th, 175th, 2011

Ice times for this weekend's camp in Penhold are as follows...

Friday, June 1st             3:00PM – 5:00PM
Saturday, June 2nd        3:45PM – 5:45PM
Sunday, June 3rd           9:00AM – 11:00AM

On Thursday morning, I stopped by the Rebels office to chat with General Manager and Head Coach Jesse Wallin and get a feel for the weekend and what he hopes to accomplish over the next three days...

TG - Talk about the value of this weekend's Prospects Camp and where it fits into the overall scheme of your program...
JW - It serves a few purposes.  The biggest thing is we want it to be an orientation.  It gives the players an idea of what to expect, what a day in the life of a Red Deer Rebels player is gonna look like.  We find that bringing them [prospects] in at this time of year it's not quite as intense of an environment [compared to main training camp].  They get to see the rink, see the building, the dressing room, spend some time in the community.  We take them over to the high school [Hunting Hills] and give them an overview of the education program.  And then of course get on the ice.  From our [coaches] perspective we hear about these players throughout the season but we haven't seen them yet.  So it gives us a bit of a visual of what they're gonna look like, what they're gonna bring to the table so we're not scrambling at training camp.  You get to chart the progress of the kids from last year.  They change a lot from 14 to 15 and 15 to 16 so the camp serves a lot of purposes and it's very beneficial.

TG - One of the players you will be seeing for the first time is Adam Musil.  For as highly regarded as he was heading into the Bantam Draft were you surprised to get him with the #6 overall selection?

JW - Yes and no.  There were concerns about recruiting him.  His dad [former long time NHL defenceman Frank] is a scout for the Edmonton Oilers.  He's a European scout so he's on the road a lot and they [Musil family] were wanting to be in a bigger centre like Calgary or Edmonton or Vancouver where there's easy access to an airport and Frank could get in and out and still be with his family.  They came back from the Czech Republic when Adam's older brother David was drafted by Vancouver as they wanted to stay together.  They'll likely move to Red Deer for the first year that Adam plays here.  But there were some question marks about recruiting and where he was gonna go.  So I think that's what scared other teams away early.  Teams like Swift Current and Prince Albert had early picks and were concerned they weren't gonna get him.  I think that's why he slid down to where we got him.  We just looked at it and said we can't pass on a guy like this.  You'd sure hate to lose out on a guy like that and have him end up in a place like Kootenay.  We haven't got his name on paper yet but we're very, very confident that will happen and it should happen this weekend.

TG - So that's where a weekend like this one comes in handy... to try and win over Adam and his family and show them that Red Deer could be a good situation...JW - Talking to the player... he is very excited.  Adam is thrilled to be in Red Deer.  He spent some time in Edmonton growing up so he is familiar with the area.  He said he loves Alberta so there's no issue whatsoever and I know the family is committed as well.  So it's really just a formality [to get him signed].  They are all excited that he's here and that the Rebels program is a good program.  Ultimately, Adam wants to be a hockey player and this is the route he wants to go.  He's a guy who played at the Burnaby Winter Club so he's excited to be coming to the same organization that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played in.  It's going to be a very good fit for both sides.

TG - When it comes to goaltenders... it's a chance for Naherniak, Mitchell, and Burman to prove where they fit into to the grand scheme of things...JW - You can never have too much depth.  We think these guys are gonna push.  Mitchell's a kid that's a bit unknown.  He had a very good season [at the Pursuit of Excellence Academy in Kelowna].  We listed him shortly after Christmas and he had a strong showing at the Mac's Tournament.  Naherniak had a very good season as a 15-year-old in Midget AAA in Saskatchewan so certainly his progression seems to be right on track at this time.  Burman... our guys felt that he was one of the top two goalies in the [2012] draft.  Sitting there in the second round there had been three other goaltenders picked and he was the guy that we wanted.  I'm looking forward to seeing him. 

TG - Anyone else stand out as a guy you're excited to get a look at this weekend?JW - The guys that stick out should are your top picks.  A guy like Conner Bleackley... I would expect him to be the best player on the ice.  Especially with the experience he got with our club last year.  I'm excited to see where he's at conditioning wise.  That was a big thing that he left with [after last season].  he has undeniable ability, good size, and can shoot the puck and make a play.  He's got some skill but he's gonna need to raise his conditioning level to be an impact player.


So there you have it for now.  A quick table setter for this weekend's camp.  I too am excited to see Musil hit the ice and show off the skills that had him ranked #1 by a few pundits heading into the bantam draft.  Improvements from Bleackley and Fleury will hopefully be evident.  And after watching at the Telus Cup in April... I am also anxious to see how the very skilled but undersized Mpofu looks in his attempt to rise up the Rebels defensive ranks.  Unfortunately, I won't be at the rink on Friday... but Calvin will be there shooting for 'Southside Dodge Rebels This Week' and then Mr. Rebel Rebellion and I will be there Saturday and Sunday to take in the rest of the action.  Look for a special edition of the RTW coming next week!

I also chatted with Jesse regarding a few other things that I'll be writing about once camp is over.  Wallin is one helluva interview!


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