Now that training camp is done, the Red Deer Rebels are preparing for the 2010 – 2011 WHL exhibition season.
Camp wrapped last Wednesday with the annual Black and White game, won by Team White 9 – 8 in the shootout. Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said the intra-squad tilt helped him make the tough decisions on who to keep and who to send out.
“I wouldn’t say that anybody really stuck out one way or the other after the Black and White game,” said Wallin.
“More than anything, things just sorted themselves out the way we thought they would. Going into the exhibition season, as far as who we are keeping around and who we are sending home, it’s pretty close to what we expected it would look like right now.”
Fourteen players were re-assigned after the Black and White game, including Red Deer natives Scott Feser and Tanner Jaillet, as well as Bashaw’s Dallas Bergstrom, leaving the Rebels with 31 players left on the roster.
“It was good to see some of the younger players in the line up, it got them some good experience,” said Wallin of the rookies. “It gave us a read not only on the future, but on how some of these kids perform in this environment, with some fans in the building.”
A couple of weeks ago the Rebels held their annual media lunch, and Wallin told reporters then that he was excited to see how the young guys from last year would progress this year.
He mentioned specifically Adam Kambeitz, Turner Elson, and Lane Scheidl, and the four- day camp gave the coaching staff reason for optimism as those three were arguably the best players on the ice.
“Kamby’s looking more confident with the puck, he’s scored some goals in camp,” said Wallin.
“Colten Mayor is another guy who has come back and he’s 10 to 15 pounds heavier. He’s got some strength now. He’s always had the ability, but now you can see him with the strength to get there and fight through some checks and get into the tough areas and still use his abilities.
“It’s good to see those guys making progress, because those are the guys that are a big part of the team now, but they’re also going to carry the team in the future, so that’s the type of progress you want to see from them.”
One player who did put on a show during the Black and White game was veteran forward Willie Coetzee, who tallied four goals for Team White.
It was quite the possible swan song for Coetzee, who leaves tomorrow for training camp for the Detroit Red Wings, and, as a signed player, there’s a good chance he won’t be coming back to Red Deer.
“It was fun playing with all the boys,” said the 19-year-old, who turns 20 in November.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen this year, so I’m just going to go into camp and see what happens. If I play here, I’ll be happy. If I play there, I’ll be happy too. Either way, it’s a win-win.”
Coetzee joins five other Rebels in leaving for pro camps this week, the others being Alex Petrovic (Florida), Darcy Kuemper (Minnesota), Byron Froese (Chicago), Andrej Kudrna (Phoenix) and Justin Weller (Phoenix).
“We’ll carry about 24 guys for the exhibition season, to cover off the six guys leaving for pro camps,” pointed out Wallin.
“Most of the guys that are left will play through the pre-season, and then we’ll make our final decisions after that.”
The Rebels will play five pre-season tilts, including tonight against the WHL champion Calgary Hitmen in Airdrie, before opening their season Sept. 24 at Rexall Place against the Edmonton Oil Kings.