The Red Deer Rebels 2017-18 training camp began last week and Coach Brent Sutter is already impressed with what he has.
“Camp has been really good,” he said. “The main camp guys have been great. They all came in in top shape and it has been a high-tempo training camp with them.”
While it is still very early in the process, Sutter sees this year’s squads playing a fast game.
“I’m not getting too far ahead of myself,” he said.
“It is day to day—continuing to work on things. I certainly like the speed on our team. We are a quicker team than we were last year and a lot of that has to do with guys coming back to camp stronger and having worked on stuff that we wanted them to work on throughout the summer.
“We did some things differently this past summer with how we wanted our kids to train off the ice. It seems to have shown so far.”
Right wing Lane Zablocki, who figures to slot in the top line and was recently drafted in the third round by the Detroit Red Wings, also noticed the improved speed of the camp, which is his first after being acquired mid-season last year from the Regina Pats.
“It is really good so far,” Zablocki said.
“The intensity is really high and the pace is very fast. The returning guys are looking good—a lot of improvements; and the younger guys are looking really good out there. It is great to see.”
Zablocki noticed right away the amount of system work that has gone into this year’s camp.
“There is a lot of high-intensity battles and there is a lot of systems in this camp, which is a little different than what I have seen in the past,” he said. “It is good because in the scrimmage it really showed. It is better to have systems and play as a team than just to have scrambling scrimmages. That is huge.”
He added that despite being drafted, his mindset going into this year’s season will be the same.
“I have some goals I want to accomplish but those are in the back of my mind,” he said. “I want this team to be successful and that is what comes first.”
His coach thinks Zablocki could be a key cog to success this year and believes he brings an important intangible.
“Leadership,” Sutter said.
“He is a handful to play against and he comes to play. He is prepared and his practice habits are outstanding. He has a bit of a different attitude this year—being a year older. He has been drafted now and he is in top shape. He looks really good.”
Zablocki looks to be high on the Rebels’ depth chart, which Sutter sees as balanced.
“I think we are going to have four pretty good lines and we have all of our defence returning,” he said.
“We will add a couple guys to that group and kids that we are really high on. It looks promising but you never know. Injuries are a big part of the sport and you never know once you get into the season how it is all going to unfold.”
Sutter noted the rookie camp is also progressing.
“The young kids came in and they are starting to get going now,” he said.
“I think yesterday there was a lot of nervous young kids, but today (Monday) our rookie camp picked up a notch and that was good to see.”
He added rookie nerves are something that are important for players to experience and grow through.
“They just have to experience it,” he said. “It makes them better going through it and it is a great experience for the young kids as it is for our main camp guys. Once you get through it and get to know the other kids around, they settle in.”
Sutter added some of the rookies will be joining the main camp in time for the Aug. 30th Black and White Game, which starts at 7 p.m. and can be viewed at the cost of a $2 donation.
Zablocki added the key to success this season will be cohesion.
“We have to come together as a team,” he said. “We aren’t young—so we all have experience which is good. From my experience in the league—the tighter you are as a unit: the more success you will have.”