Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rebels Report - Dumba, Bartosak, and Bittner (the new guy)

Got a quick pic with 
Evgeni Malkin while in Vegas.
I'm Baaaack!

What a lovely change it was for this guy to go from sunny and 40+ degrees Celsius in Las Vegas to rainy and 15 degrees back here in Red Deer .  But I suppose a guy has to put up with that kind of thing after having a great time over five days in Sin City.  I'll survive.

There was some hockey flavour to my trip as my buddy and I dropped in on an NHL Awards 'after party' last Wednesday night.  It was pretty cool to be 'just a fan' for a night and meet current NHLers like Evgeni Malkin, Daniel Alfredsson, and Twitter legend Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0).  And, even as a life long Flames fan, it was quite a thrill to meet Mark Messier.  There were plenty more NHLers in the building, unfortunately my knack for recognizing faces isn't what it should be for a guy in my position (though I did manage to shake hands with Henrik Lundqvist).  Regardless, it was a great way to start a holiday.

Two nights later, I had a much more difficult time in tracking down information on the NHL Entry Draft while in Las Vegas.  I ended up texting a friend of mine back home (to avoid pricy data roaming charges) to find out that Minnesota had selected Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba 7th overall.  I must admit, that's right about where I expected him to be selected... in the top ten overall and, as it turned out, fourth amongst the highly regarded draft eligible WHL defencemen (along with Ryan Murray, Griffen Reinhart, and Morgan Rielly).  I'm pretty thrilled for Mat and have no doubt that he'll be impressive when he attends Minnesota's rookie camps and training camp this fall... though I, along with many others, fully expect him to be back playing for the Rebels again next season.

As excited as I was for Dumba... I was equally disappointed for Patrik Bartosak.  I had my hopes that someone would pick him up in one of the later rounds of the draft.  Sadly, this was not the case.  Despite his high ranking heading into the draft (10th amongst goalies who played in North America in 2011-12) and his invite to the NHL Combine in Toronto it is apparent that his limited sample size (just 25 games played prior to his shoulder injury) worked against him.

Yes, this certainly is a setback for the Rebels Czech-born goaltender.  But having gotten to know Patrik during his first season in Red Deer, I have have no doubt that he will bounce back from it.  He has worked amazingly hard to recover from his shoulder injury and earning invites to both the NHL Combine and the recent Czech U20 (world juniors) week-long camp are signs that he's not completely off the radar when it comes to being noticed.  Who knows... there may still be an NHL team that picks up Bartosak as a free agent.  Or... he could end up in better position to be selected in next year's entry draft following what will hopefully be a solid (injury free) season with the Rebels.

Meantime... as I sat here writing this blog entry the Rebels made their selection (23rd overall) in the 2012 CHL Import Draft.  For the second straight year, the Rebels have selected a player from the Czech Republic... taking 19-year-old defenceman Jan Bittner.  Bittner, who stands 6 ft 2 and weighs 207 lbs., had 15 points (4-11-15) in 42 games last season with HC Litvinov (Czech Junior).

Speaking with GM and Head Coach Jesse Wallin shortly after the pick was made, he is hopeful that Bittner can come here and assume a top four role along the Rebels blue line.  "He's a 19 year old so he's an experienced guy.  All indications are that he'll be able to come over and be a real solid guy in our league.  We've got some good young defencemen coming up, guys like Doetzel and Fleury.  We want to have some stability with them.  An older veteran presence than can play with those young guys and this guy sounds like he's gonna fit that bill well."

Is there a chance that Bittner would rather stay in Europe than come to North America?  Wallin doesn't think so.

"I haven't spoken to him yet.  But I know he had planned on coming over [to North America] and really wanted to come over.  So I think he's gonna be really excited about being here [Red Deer]."

And yes... Rebels goalie and resident Czech native Patrik Bartosak did have good things to say when asked about Bittner.  The two recently skated together at the week long camp for the Czech U20's.

"Having a fellow countrymen to be with will hopefully make the transition much easier for him," Wallin said in reference to Bittner.  "When they come over here with the attitude that they wanna be here and wanna be hockey players it makes things that much better.  Patty's excited about having him here and I think they'll get along real well and he'll fit in real well."

Anyhoo... that about does it for my return blog.  The 2012-13 WHL season schedule comes out this afternoon.  I'll have some thoughts coming on that in the near future as well.


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