Douglas convinced joining Rebels was the right choice
His decision to sign with the Red Deer Rebels wasn’t made overnight.
Indeed, Chris Douglas didn’t put his name on the dotted line until he and his parents weighed his options.
The Richmond, B.C., native made his way to Red Deer and practised and skated with the Rebels in mid-November, roughly two months after being listed by the Western Hockey League club.
He was then offered a standard education contract by the Rebels and it became decision time.
“We (Douglas and his parents) went through the whole pros and cons thing, we went through the list, and this seemed like the way for me to go,” he said Tuesday, prior to a practice session at the Centrium.
“It really helps that I’m up here as a 16-year-old to play. It gives me experience in the league.”
Douglas signed with the Rebels last week — effectively ending his U.S. college scholarship eligibility — and played in all three road games with the team in Saskatchewan during the weekend.
“I got to know the guys and we had a lot of fun,” he said. “I had to get the feel for the pace of this league. It’s a big jump coming from major midget and jumping in at the middle of the season the game at this level is even faster than it was at the beginning.
“It’s good that I got a chance to get in and hopefully I can keep improving.”
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter had no problems with the youngster’s performance in each of the three road games — a 4-3 win at Prince Albert, a 4-2 loss at Saskatoon and a 5-4 shootout setback at Swift Current.
“I thought he was good,” said Sutter. “I think it took him a game or two to get up to the pace and I thought he played really good in Swift Current.
“He’s like one of those players who have the whole package. He can skate, he’s big, he’s strong for a 16-year-old and he’s really a heady player. He’s a smart young man.”
Douglas was in his second season with the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the B.C. Major Midget League when he accepted the Rebels offer.
After recording 16 points (5g,11a) in 32 games in 2015-16, he had 13 goals and 37 points in 26 games with the Canadians this season.
The six-foot-one, 165-pound right winger was passed over in the WHL bantam draft due mainly to the fact he was all of five-foot-seven at the time. Still, he was on the Rebels’ radar.
“Red Deer had been watching me since I was in bantam hockey,” said Douglas. “I was a lot smaller then and didn’t get drafted.
“I grew a lot and worked really hard over the (past) summer. When I came back this season I started having a really good year in midget and Red Deer was in constant contact with me.”
Now that he’s reached the major junior level, Douglas has been a quick study.
“You have to be focused every time you get on the ice. Definitely more preparation is involved at this level than in midget,” he said.
“When you come up here, with the foot speed you have no time to make any decisions, plus the mental game in the WHL is just so much higher than in midget hockey. You can never stop moving your feet and you always have to be one step ahead because you have no time to make your decisions.”
Douglas knows what type of WHL player he’d eventually like to be and the route he must follow to get there.
“I just need to get myself really involved. I’m a young guy so I have to get experience,” he said. “Hopefully when I’m older and put on some weight I can become more of a big, skilled power forward.”
Meanwhile, overage defenceman Colton Bobyk will return to the Rebels lineup when the team takes on the Hitmen Wednesday in Calgary.
Bobyk sat out Sunday’s outing in Swift Current due to disciplinary reasons. Sutter was upset with a slashing penalty the veteran rearguard took Saturday, a third-period infraction that led to a Saskatoon power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2.
“At the end of the day, our older players have to set the right examples and it starts with being disciplined and other things that make a team a good team,” said the Rebels boss.
“You can’t be taking penalties of those types in a 2-1 hockey game. You’re in control of the game and playing well and all of a sudden you take a penalty like that. They score on the power play and it changes the momentum of the game.
“If the older guys aren’t going to do it right, then how do you teach the younger players? ‘Bobs’ understood it when I talked to him, he knew what he did was wrong and knew the consequences. He understood it. The message from the coaching staff was very clear.”
Following Wednesday’s contest, the Rebels host the Prince Albert Raiders Friday and entertain the Victoria Royals 24 hours later.