“The Red Deer Rebels are selling the farm to load up for the Memorial Cup!”
This has been a common refrain from pundits near and far in wake of the blockbuster trades the Rebels have made over the past couple of weeks.
There’s a concern out there that the Rebels are doomed to follow the lead of the Saskatoon Blades in going all out now by giving away their future. (We all know how that worked out for them
Team brass, however, is confident in their belief that the Rebels cupboard for next year and beyond is not as empty as many believe.
Assistant GM Shaun Sutter spoke with Cam Moon during Wednesday night’s broadcast on 106.7 The Drive of the Rebels’ 5-0 win in Saskatoon. Sutter presented the team’s case that they are indeed not talent-strapped for the post-Memorial Cup era.
“A lot of people see what’s going out the door, the abundance of draft picks and players going out,” Sutter noted. “But, we’ve accumulated an abundance of draft picks for this reason, to hopefully keep our younger players in the fold, those on our roster and those who aren’t on our team, so we can have success down the line.”
“We’re not an old team. If you compare our 1997 and 1998 age groups to any other team’s, we’re actually further ahead than a lot of teams that are rebuilding.”
Sutter singles out Grayson Pawlenchuk, Adam Musil and Michael Spacek up front and Austin Schmoorkoff, Austin Strand and Braden Purtill along the blue line as current 97-born Rebels who will be counted on as team leaders next season.
Among the 98’s, Sutter says Josh Mahura is as good as any WHL defenceman his age. Up front, Jeff de Wit, Brandon Hagel, Taden Rattie, Reece Johnson are all key pieces for the club moving forward.
“That’s a very good group of players to return as the core of your team. We think those two groups of players are as good as any in the league,” Sutter proclaimed. “A lot of those guys are going to be elite players.”
As things sit now, three days ahead of the WHL trade deadline, the Rebels could return as many as 10 forwards from five defencemen their current roster for the 2016-17 season. Both goalies, Rylan Toth and Trevor Martin, are also eligible to return (though at least one won’t, obviously).
Along with the projected list of returnees, Sutter is excited for the crop of projected newcomers to the Rebels roster for next season.
Carson Sass, Ethan Sakowich, Jacob Herauf and Texas-born Jase Foskey (yet to sign with the club) highlight Sutter’s list of top defence prospects.
Akash Bains, who nearly made the club this year as a 16-year-old but was the team’s final cut, and D-Jay Jerome are 99-born players Sutter feels will help lead the way up front. There is also 2000-born Brendan Budy, who the Rebels also feel is an elite Midget player who eventually come in and make a difference for the Rebels. Sutter compares him to recently-acquired veteran Luke Philp.
In net, the Rebels have a hometown Red Deer kid who appears ready to take the next step to play major junior hockey in Dawson Weatherill.
“He’s as good as any goalie out there in midget hockey,” Sutter feels.
Other dark horses in the Rebels system Sutter thinks could step up and contribute include Cale Chalifouz and Zac Gladue. Draft picks Chase Lowry and Brandon Cutler are also having solid seasons as 15-year-olds.
“Our organizational depth is good despite fans seeing pieces going out the door.”
Shaun also reminds everyone that the Rebels still own an all-important first round selection in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft, courtesy of the Regina Pats. Based on current standings, Sutter thinks that pick could end up being somewhere between 7th and 12th overall.
“That gives us a lot of options to either keep that pick or look at what we can do to maybe accumulate more picks.”
All of this may or may not help ease the concerns of those who feel the Rebels are selling their future in order to win now. If nothing else, it should show the Rebels do indeed have one eye on the future.
Some background reading for your enjoyment…