Grubbe, Masters excited about playing in Winter Games in their future home
They were just two of 20 players who suited up for Team Alberta on Wednesday evening at the Centrium.
But Kyle Masters and Jayden Grubbe had something extra going for them — they were skating in the facility that will be their future home with the Red Deer Rebels.
Grubbe and Masters are members of the under-16 squad that will represent the province in the Canada Winter Games set for Feb. 15 to March 3 in Red Deer.
“It will be a really cool experience. It’s the one time it’s in Red Deer and we get to play here (Centrium),” said Grubbe, following Team Alberta’s 4-2 exhibition victory over the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.
The provincial squad is comprised mostly of top Western Hockey League bantam drafts picks and is clearly a highly-skilled group.
“There’s lots of skill here,” said Grubbe (pictured above). “This was our first game as a team. We practise here twice Thursday and then we have another exhibition game Friday (at 2 p.m. at the Centrium against the St. Albert midget AAA Raiders).
“We’re just getting to know each other and getting ready for the (Winter Games) tournament.”
Grubbe, a six-foot-one, 181-pound centre, was selected seventh overall by the Rebels in last May’s WHL bantam draft. The 15-year-old is having a solid season with the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes, competing against players up to two years older.
Due to his size and skill, moving up from major bantam to the midget AAA ranks wasn’t a huge stretch for the Calgary product, who has scored two goals and added 20 assists in 24 games with the Buffaloes, who sit second in the Alberta Midget League South Division with a 16-5-3 record.
“But I had to get used to new linemates as well as playing a higher tempo game with bigger and older guys,” said Grubbe, who turns 16 in January. “I had to get used to that.”
Grubbe, who plays a physical style as his 58 minutes in penalties this winter would suggest, is a solid bet to earn regular employment with the Rebels next season.
He’ll certainly give himself every opportunity to move up to the major junior ranks.
“During the summer I’ll probably be on the ice a bit more than last off-season,” he said. “I’ll be working on the little things like shooting skills just to get tuned up for the season.”
Masters (pictured below) is equally excited about the prospect of wearing Alberta colours in the Winter Games and likes the team’s chances of excelling in the event.
“This is definitely a special group of guys and with all the skill that we have it’s definitely going to be pretty cool coming back here for the Games,” he said.
“There’s a lot of guys who can play a lot of different roles, but at the same time we’re all really good players and will all buy into the system.”
The Rebels had two first-round picks in the 2018 WHL bantam draft and nabbed Masters, a defenceman, 16th overall.
This season he’s playing with the Edmonton Okanagan Hockey Academy midget prep team and has produced two goals and 14 points in 24 games.
“It’s going well,” said the five-foot-10, 140-pound Edmonton native, whose father Kevin played with the Rebels in the club’s inaugural WHL season of 1992-93.
“Being a smaller guy it was a big jump (from bantam to midget) playing against the bigger guys,” he said. “I had to make adjustments but I think I’m getting better as the season goes on.
“Our team is doing pretty well. Like our coach says, we’re getting better every day and we’re looking to get even better in the New Year.”
Masters, who celebrated his 15th birthday in September, wasn’t overly confident that he’d be selected to Team Alberta.
“The way I looked at it, anything could happen. There was a lot of great guys on the short list,” he said.
Masters will be on another short list next fall as he’ll almost certainly get a long look in Rebels camp. In fact, he’s better than even money to be on the regular-season opening night roster.
“The goal is to play here next season and like Jayden, I’ll be on the ice a lot during the summer working on the finer details of my game,” he said.
The Optimist Chiefs got a goal from Sean Michalevich 4:54 into Wednesday’s contest, but the lead was short-lived as Tyson Laventure of Lloydminster and Colton Dach of Fort Saskatchewan, on a breakaway, tallied for Team Alberta before the first period ended.
Dylan Guenther of Edmonton and Matt Savoie of St. Albert extended the provincial team’s lead to 4-1 with second-period markers before Ben Perreault, on the power play, replied for the Chiefs before the intermission.
The third period was scoreless.
Team Alberta fired 35 shots at the Chiefs goaltending tandem of Logen Breen and Bretton Park, who pitched a shutout over the second half of the contest.
Drew Sim of Tees and Lochlan Gordon of Edmonton combined to make 22 saves for Team Alberta.