Red Deer Rebels forward Turner Elson is into his fourth year with the team and has seen a lot during training camps along with the regular seasons he’s been involved in.
The 19-year-old from New Westminster, who is on the verge of turning 20 this week says he likes what he has seen so far in this edition of camp.
Elson points to the younger players on the team which were thrown into the fire last season due to injuries suffered by many veterans.
“They should be ready to go and be ready to play hockey,” he said. “It’s time to ramp it up and get to the Memorial Cup this year.”
Elson figures with all the minutes these young guys have under their belts from the previous season, the deer in the headlights look when playing in a WHL regular season game should have vanished.
The Memorial Cup is the goal of all teams in early September and Elson says it’s no different with this Rebels squad with veterans like himself and captain Adam Kambeitz expected to lead by example.
One of the key ingredients to going as far as possible in the playoffs is strong goaltending from Patrik Bartosak who missed most of the 2011/12 campaign with a shoulder injury. The 19-year-old played in 25 games, posting a 14-11 record with one shutout and a solid 2.74 GAA.
Elson says if Bartosak is in between the pipes for the entire season it creates a more comfortable situation in the defensive zone.
“He’s there to stop the puck if you make a mistake, he’s always got your back if you’re chasing a guy down or something,” he said. “He’s a great goaltender with some great skills and will be an asset this year.”
Backing him up will be Boulton Pouliot who Elson feels will be more comfortable having that year of experience on his resume.
“He’s improved so much this year and he’s a good backup goalie and will be a good goalie in the future,” said Elson.
The Calgary Flames draft pick also has some personal goals he is gearing up to achieve this season, one of which he wants is for the best season he possibly can have.
“I want to get better every year, get more points, have fewer penalty minutes, anything to get better,” he said.
A move off the ice could pay some dividends on the ice for the Rebels as well with Brent Sutter taking over the general manager’s chair and Head Coach Jesse Wallin being able to focus on the players more.
Elson says the players are excited about the move and understand what it means to their coach and the players.
“It shows that Wally wants to focus on us instead of focusing on other things around the league,” he said.
He does say it might be a little nerve-wracking seeing the owner sitting in the stands of the Enmax Centrium more nights than in the past.
“Oh maybe a little bit but he just wants the best for us and we want the best for the team so it’s all good,” he said.
The Rebels will close out their exhibition season this weekend and host the Calgary Hitmen on Sept. 21st to start the regular season.