Prior to the Pandemic
A slow start proved to be the undoing for the Rebels in the 2019-20 campaign as they ended up well back of the wild card picture, dealt away their captain Dawson Barteaux and overage forward Brett Davis at the trade deadline and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since they lost a tiebreaker game to the Prince Albert Raiders in 2014.
Heading into this season the team also had a major change in the broadcast booth as longtime announcer Cam Moon moved up to the NHL to take a play-by-play position with the Edmonton Oilers.
Filling that vacancy on an interim basis was Troy Gillard, who has been part of the Rebels radio team for the last decade and will take over the role on a full-time basis next season.
While the team was able to stay in the friendly confines of the Westerner Park Centurium during the shortened campaign, the season turned into a house of horrors for the Rebels as they dealt with a number of injuries and had a 13-game losing streak.
During that skid, general manager and owner Brent Sutter elected to step down from his role as head coach on April 10, with assistant general manager Shaun Sutter filling in on the bench as the Rebels found themselves with a 2-10-2-0 mark.
They would finish the season with a 4-15-4-0 record, a 2.56 goals per game mark that was their lowest since the 2008-09 season and a goals against per game of 4.60, which was their worse since the 1994-95 campaign when they nearly gave up an average of five goals per night.
- Chris Douglas (7-6-13 in 23 games – Committed to the UBC Thunderbirds)
- Josh Tarzwell (7-2-9 in 16 games)
- Arshdeep Bains (8-12-20 in 23 games)
- Liam Keeler (Acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings – 3-9-12 in 19 games)
- Zak Smith (2-4-6 in 23 games)
- Tomas Chlubna (Unsigned 2020 Import Draft Pick – 5-7-12 in 25 games for HC Dukla Jihlava in Czech Republic)
- Jace Isley (2-4-6 in 23 games)
- Ben King (12-16-28 in 21 games)
- Kyler Kovich (Unsigned 4th round pick in 2017 – 5-10-15 in 36 games for the Tri-City Storm – Committed to the Cornell Big Red)
- Dallon Melin (2-4-6 in 23 games)
- Ethan Rowland (6-3-9 in 23 games)
- Keaton Sorenson (0-2-2 in 23 games)
- Jaxsen Wiebe (1-2-3 in 21 games – Traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings)
- Jayden Grubbe (1-2-3 in five games)
- Josh Medernach (0-0-0 in 18 games)
- Carter Anderson (2-0-2 in 13 games)
- Jhett Larson (1-1-2 in 16 games)
- Michael Valdez (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2019 – 4-3-7 in 13 games for the Colorado Under-16 Thunderbirds – Committed to the Colorado College Tigers)
- Arjun Bawa (2nd round pick in 2020 – 2-0-2 in five games for the Delta Hockey Academy Under-17 Prep Team – 16-25-41 in 30 games for the St. George’s School Under-15 Prep Team in 2019-20)
- Talon Brigley (2nd round pick in 2020 – 0-1-1 in five games for the Red Deer Under-18 Chiefs Team – 13-13-26 in 23 games for Red Deer Under-15 Rebels in 2019-20)
- Kalan Lind (4-2-6 in 15 games)
Of all the injuries that the Rebels had to deal with this year, the biggest one was their captain Jayden Grubbe, as his sophomore season came to a screeching halt after suffering a knee injury against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on March 12.
While the offence didn’t make great strides as one may have expected with all but one player (Cam Hausinger) coming back, the big pieces did their job to lead the way. Overagers Chris Douglas and Josh Tarzwell, along with veteran Arshdeep Bains, were threats to score once again, while Ben King put together an excellent campaign and nearly reached the 30-point plateau.
The Rebels also got their top prospect into the fray as Kalan Lind joined the team after being picked sixth overall in 2020. The younger brother of former Kelowna Rockets star and current Vancouver Canucks prospect Kole, Kalan was dominant for the Swift Current Under-15 Broncos and the Saskatoon Under-18 Contacts over the last two seasons and is an exciting player to keep an eye on going forward.
- Blake Gustafson (0-2-2 in 18 games)
- Chase Leslie (0-5-5 in 10 games)
- Christoffer Sedoff (0-2-2 in 26 games for SaiPa in Finland – 5-14-19 in 61 games for Red Deer in 2019-20)
- Joel Sexsmith (0-4-4 in 18 games)
- Mason Ward (2-5-7 in 22 games – Traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings)
- Kyle Masters (0-10-10 in 20 games)
- Trey Patterson (0-0-0 in nine games)
- Hunter Mayo (0-0-0 in six games)
- Jace Weir (2-7-9 in 22 games)
- Matteo Fabrizi (2nd round pick in 2020 – 0-0-0 in five games for the Yale Hockey Academy Under-18 Prep Team – 3-15-18 in 23 games for the Yale Hockey Academy Under-15 Prep Team in 2019-20)
Although Sedoff didn’t return to Red Deer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire Rebels defence was back for this season, but they ended up being short-staffed on many occasions as they dealt with various injuries.
Despite those challenges, two of the younger faces of the blueline really showed what they had to offer this year. After only suiting up in 24 games in 2019-20, Kyle Masters was excellent in his second season as the 2018 first round pick had 10 assists to finish fourth in team scoring.
The other youngster who impressed was rookie Jace Weir. The second round pick in 2019 hit the scoresheet in five of his last six contests to end up with nine points in 22 games and in a tie for fifth in scoring among all players on the Rebels.
- Ethan Anders (1-7-2 with a 4.50 GAA, an .866 save percentage and zero shutouts – Committed to the UBC Thunderbirds)
- Byron Fancy (1-7-1 with a 5.19 GAA, an .842 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Connor Ungar (Acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings – 5-2-1 with a 2.75 GAA, a .908 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Chase Coward (2-1-1 with a 3.02 GAA, a .914 save percentage and zero shutouts)
Anders and Fancy’s third season as the goaltending duo in Red Deer was one that they would rather forget. The numbers aren’t kind to the veterans, but they had to be the last line of defence on numerous occasions as opposing offences were able to take advantage of a short-staffed Rebels blueline.
After waiting in the wings nearly all year, Coward finally showed what he had to offer during the final games of the campaign, which included an upset win over the Edmonton Oil Kings. After making the first all-star team in the Saskatchewan Under-18 circuit in 2019-20 with the Moose Jaw Warriors, the 18-year-old from Swift Current has made his claim for a full-time role on the Rebels come next season.
Sutter has already gotten to work on strengthening the Rebels roster by bringing in Edmonton Oil Kings overage forward Liam Keeler and Brandon Wheat Kings netminder Connor Ungar in a pair of trades.
Keeler’s addition should give the Rebels a nice secondary scoring option, while Ungar’s arrival would signal that he and Coward might be taking over the reins in goal, but that won’t be decided until training camp.
The Rebels have also found their new bench boss as they hired Steve Konowalchuk on June 8. The 48-year-old had spent the last three seasons as a scout with the New York Rangers and was previously the head coach for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2011 to 2017, where he captured a league title in his final season with the club.
While they fell from second to fifth in the WHL Draft Lottery, the Rebels will be able to add another strong talent to their prospect pool in December. They also have two second round picks (one of which came from Winnipeg in the Barteaux trade), a third, Lethbridge’s fourth (from the Davis trade) and three fifths (one from Winnipeg in the Barteaux deal and one from Seattle in exchange for Alex Morozoff) that they can use to add talent, in addition to another Winnipeg second rounder in 2022 from the aforementioned Barteaux trade.
If they don’t have to deal with a bevy of injuries once again, the Rebels should show improvement next year. A returning Grubbe and a bigger role from Lind will do wonders for the offence, while the defence gained a ton of experience in the shortened campaign and they may have Sedoff back after a year’s absence. A surprise run at a playoff spot wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities.