Small in stature, Larson still casts large shadow for Rebels
Jhett Larson packs an eight-cylinder motor inside of a four-cylinder frame.
The second-year Rebels winger checks in at a mere five-foot-eight, 169 pounds, but plays far bigger than his size.
As a member of the team’s highest scoring line, Larson has no qualms about venturing into corners with opposing — and much larger — defencemen and claiming pucks like they belong to him.
Unquestionably, his engine routinely runs at a high RPM.
“He plays hard every game, every shift,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said Thursday. “He has real good tenacity and work ethic . . . quickness, compete. It doesn’t matter the size, he’ll finish checks on big guys or smaller guys.
“He brings a lot to that line with getting the puck and helping with the forecheck. He’s also got skill to make plays and to finish, so he’s a good complement to that line, certainly a big part of that line.”
Playing with intensity and beyond his physical dimensions is nothing new for Larson, whom the Rebels selected in the eighth round of the 2019 WHL bantam draft, 163rd overall.
“I’ve been pretty undersized my whole life, but I’ve always been pretty physical,” he said. “Even though it’s hard some times, you still have to do it. It makes a difference in my game, creates more space for me.”
The Delisle, Sask., native has skated alongside the Rebels’ top two scorers — Arshdeep Bains and Ben King — for a good part of the season and has seen his game evolve nicely while on the club’s No. 1 line.
He’s been a willing student, soaking up the knowledge and on-ice savvy possessed by his linemates. Bains is tied for second in WHL points with 55 and tied for top spot with 36 assists, while King is fourth in league scoring with 52 points, including a league best 29 goals.
“Playing with Kinger and Arsh has been a great experience for me,” said Larson, who has contributed eight goals and 22 points. “I’ve learned so much from them, how they create space offensively and are responsible in the D zone, a big reason why they have so much success offensively.
“I just like learning things in practice and asking questions. I sit beside Kinger in the room and I ask him lots of questions about when he was my age, about growing and getting scoring ability.
“And Arsh’s playmaking ability is just unreal.”
While Larson’s numbers aren’t as gaudy as his veteran linemates, he knows his role on the top unit and plays it well.
“I like to play with a physical mindset and create turnovers, so when we do get the puck we can make plays,” he said. “I also try and make plays like them and try and follow them. But mostly it’s just working hard and creating room for them and creating room for myself.
“It just all works together pretty well.”
The fact that Larson not only has good speed but is hard to knock off the puck makes him all that much more effective, Konowalchuk noted.
“For sure, he’s strong on his skates and he’ll catch some guys if he’s hitting,” said the Rebels bench boss. “He battles, he has quickness and he’s definitely stronger than what you’d think with his height.
“He has some good leg strength and obviously he’s going to get even stronger over the next few years. He’s a pretty complete hockey player for sure. We can use him in all situations.”
After registering only four wins in last winter’s pandemic-shortened 23-game season, the Rebels are rolling right along in the current campaign, holding down second place in the Central Division with a 25-12-2-1 record.
The recent additions of overage defenceman Jackson van de Leest and import forward Frantisek Formanek hasn’t disturbed the locker room chemistry, Larson noted.
“We treat them like family,” said Larson, who will celebrate his 18th birthday next week. “They fit in so well.
“There are more connections now than I felt last year when we lived here (inside the Centrium). Everyone is really clicking right now.”
The Rebels are coming off Tuesday’s 5-2 road win over the Swift Current Broncos and will host the Broncos in a rematch Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Red Deer will take on the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes Saturday.