Rebels new forward Armstrong prepared to take his game to another level
A sign of things to come?
The Red Deer Rebels certainly hope that’s the case and so does newcomer Craig Armstrong.
The 19-year-old right shot forward, acquired from the Prince George Cougars in August, sniped three goals in the first Rebels main camp scrimmage Saturday, leading Team White to a 5-3 win over Team Black.
“It was a good day. It’s been a tough training camp so far but I think it’s coming along and I think my game is definitely going to take off from here,” the Crossfield native said.
Armstrong was selected by the Cougars in the first round, ninth overall, of the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft after scoring 23 goals and recording 54 points in 34 regular season games with the major bantam Airdrie Extreme, then adding 10 goals and 24 points in 13 playoff outings.
His rookie WHL season saw Armstrong score just once and collect seven assists in 62 games and he garnered 13 points, including seven goals, in 21 games in the pandemic shortened 2020-21 campaign.
The five-foot-seven, 180-pound winger/centre appeared in 67 games last season with the Cougars, potting 12 goals and recording 35 points.
The Rebels gave up three draft picks — a second-rounder in 2023, a fourth-rounder in 2024 and a fifth-rounder in 2025 — in return for Armstrong and are anticipating that he’ll not only build off last season but take his game to another level starting this fall.
The feisty forward is poised to do just that in his fourth WHL season.
“I definitely feel more confident with the puck and tonight that was probably just a prime example of me just holding onto the puck compared to my first year when I probably would have just dumped it in,” he said.
“Now I’m holding pucks, trying to make plays, trying to be a more confident player overall. I think I’m a fast player who likes to drive to the net and move the puck well. I think of myself as an offensive player and I hope to be a big part of this team moving forward.”
While Armstrong might be lacking in size, he plays with an edge, with a healthy measure of grit.
“I love playing in the corners and battling, that’s part of my game,” he said. “I’m an energetic guy. I like hitting people and getting in on the physicality.”
The August trade caught Armstrong somewhat off guard, but he’s more than happy to be closer to home and with a team that appears to be on the rise.
“It’s always a surprise to be traded, but I think I just needed a fresh start with a new team and so far it’s definitely helped out. I’m really excited to be a Rebel,” he said.
“Home is only an hour away and my parents are really pumped up about that. They can come to a lot of games now. It’s really nice to be close to home.
“I’m definitely happy. I’m super excited and I can’t wait for the start of the season.”
Frantisek Formanek and Arjun Bawa also scored for Team White Saturday, with Jayden Grubbe, Jace Isley and Jhett Larson replying for Team Black.
Main camp practices for groups A and B are slated for 8 and 11:15 a.m. Sunday at the Peavey Mart Centrium, followed by a scrimmage at 5 p.m.
Rookie camp scrimmages are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
On Monday, the main camp players will practice at 8 and 9:30 p.m. and scrimmage at 4 p.m., following a rookie scrimmage at 11 a.m.
Main camp players will practice at 9 and 11 a.m. Tuesday and a scrimmage — featuring the players who will participate in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Black and White game — will go at 5 p.m.
The Rebels will open their pre-season schedule next Friday in Calgary and will host the Hitmen the following night.