The Red Deer Rebels are among the hottest teams in the CHL this week, skating to seven wins over their past eight contests, with the bulk of that success coming on the road.
The Rebels won four out of five on a recent road trip before returning home to blank the Kelowna Rockets 7-0 and defeat the Kootenay ICE 5-4 in overtime, giving them four straight wins entering another weekend that features a return trip to Cranbrook on Friday and a home date with the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday.
With the second-highest winning percentage (.738) in the WHL, second only to the 21-1-0-0 Prince Albert Raiders, Brent Sutter’s Rebels make their fourth appearance of the season in the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings.
As is the case with most winning teams, success often comes from the net out. Eighteen-year-old sophomore Ethan Anders has provided the Rebels with quality goaltending, going 13-4-1-0 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage with two shutouts.
The Pilot Butte, Sask. native was never chosen in the WHL Bantam Draft, but is making himself known across the league this season. He’s helped backstop the 15-5-1-0 Rebels into the Central Division lead.
“It’s been a good start to the year for both myself and the team,” he recently told the Red Deer Advocate’s Greg Meachem. “It’s good for us to get recognized and good for us to be out there and on top of the division.
“But we can’t let that affect how we play. We can’t get cocky or anything like that, we just have to go out and play every night so we can stay on this pace for hopefully the whole year.”
While Anders is still looking for an NHL contract, his Rebels teammate Brandon Hagel got himself noticed by the Chicago Blackhawks, who signed the overage free agent to a three-year entry level contract on October 30th. The fourth-year Rebel is sixth in WHL scoring with 37 points (14-23–37) over 20 contests. He was originally a sixth round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2016 before going unsigned.
“It happened really, really fast,” he told the Red Deer Express’ Robin Grant of the signing. “It’s surprising, to be honest, but I am happy that it did.
“I’ve been having a pretty good start to my year. I love to win and when you have a loving team like you do this year, it’s fun.”
Perhaps the biggest name in Red Deer, Washington Capitals first round pick Alexander Alexeyev, recently represented Russia in the CIBC Canada Russia Series. The recently-turned 19-year-old sits second among WHL defencemen in scoring with 26 points (7-19–26) over 21 games.
What’s more, the Rebels don’t just have one Russian with offensive capabilities. 2019 NHL Draft prospect Oleg Zaytsev, the 17th overall pick of the 2018 CHL Import Draft, has 19 points (5-14–19) in as many contests as a rookie this season. Other forwards in overagers Jeff De Wit (14-9–23) and Reese Johnson (13-7–20) have regularly found the back of the net, giving Sutter’s squad a prominent goal-scoring pair alongside Hagel.
There’s plenty to be excited about in Red Deer over the course of the next few months as the city hosts the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on January 23rd. That, in addition to a Rebels club appearing poised to make a good run at things down the stretch will give Red Deer hockey fans lots to cheer about before the season is through.
The KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight takes a closer look at one team from the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings.
Past KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight editions:
Sept. 26, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Oct. 4, 2018 – London Knights
Oct. 11, 2018 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2018 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Oct. 25, 2018 – Prince Albert Raiders
Nov. 1, 2018 – Ottawa 67’s
Nov. 8, 2018 – Moncton Wildcats
Nov. 15, 2018 – Baie-Comeau Drakkar