Big expectations laid out for Rebels

Dogfight predicted for up to half a dozen available roster spots

The weather co-operated perfectly for the opening day of Red Deer Rebels training camp.

On a morning where you could see your own breath, and the mid-day high hovered around six degrees, the Rebels opened training camp at the ENMAX Centrium on Sunday.

The rookies got things going with a two-hour session that included some drills and a scrimmage, with that being followed by the main camp.

All of it, of course, was held under the watchful eye of Rebels owner Brent Sutter, head coach Jesse Wallin and the rest of the coaching staff.

Wallin says he’s expecting some big things from the players and the team this year.

“I think you have expectations for each individual. You expect your young kids to develop, and there are always things you’re excited about, things you have question marks about,” said Wallin.

“The older guys; who’s going to step into bigger roles? I look at our 1992 group of forwards, Lane Scheidl, Turner Elson, Adam Kambeitz, Johnny Persson; all those guys need to progress for us this year. We need more production from that entire group. There’s going to be an opportunity for one or two of them to step into our top six.”

And with some of the younger guys looking to fight their way up the depth chart, Wallin is also expecting a bit of a dogfight amongst the veterans who are looking to fill one of three overage spots on the team.

“It is going to be interesting. There’s going to be some battles there for sure,” said Wallin, who will have some tough choices ahead of him over the next couple of weeks.

“Both our goaltenders are 20-year-olds, so there will be a battle there. Obviously, Darcy Kuemper might have the opportunity to go on and play pro hockey. On the forwards side of things, Willie Coetzee is in that boat as well. But Willie’s a signed player, so I think he’s going to get every opportunity to play in Detroit’s system,” added Wallin.

“But that still leaves five or six guys who are fighting for three spots. We’ll let that all play out. I have an idea of what I expect it to look like, but you certainly don’t set anything in stone, and everybody’s going to have an opportunity, and different situations occur so we’re going to let it all develop and see where we’re at.”

Rebels captain Colin Archer is one of those 20-year-olds, and looks to be a lock to make the team.

But that sense of security didn’t stop the Red Deer native from laying out Kambeitz with a big hit during a drill on Sunday morning.

“Oh, he liked that,” laughed Archer when asked if Kambeitz said anything to him after the hit.

“Kamby likes that intense style of play. I know he didn’t have the puck, but he came over into my lane, and I figured if I didn’t knock him down, he was going to knock me down so I took the chance.”

It’s that kind of intensity that Wallin is looking for from his charges as camp wraps up tonight with the annual Black and White game.

That gets going at 7 p.m. down at the ENMAX Centrium.

Note: Former Rebel Steve Oursov is at this year’s camp, trying to make a major junior comeback.

The 19-year-old forward tallied four goals in 29 games as a Rebel in 2008-2009, before a concussion knocked him out for the rest of the season.

He played last year with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BC Junior “A” Hockey League.