After falling out of the playoffs in the first round this past season, the Castlegar Rebels are more determined than ever to play their best starting in September.
To prepare, coach Bill Rotheisler has been on the road, scouting out new players to build defense and to make sure scoring is there now that the team’s top offensive player, Logan Styler, has aged out of the KIJHL.
Rotheisler has been attending a lot of Junior A spring camps, scouted some players in Edmonton and took a team to a tournament in Boston.
“Every year, in general, I take a team to … a tournament that’s in Boston and we usually mix it with a few of our guys with some guys we’re looking at for next year and some higher end guys,” explains Rotheisler.
This year he took four current Rebels — John Moeller, Chance Szott, Everett Hicks and Daneel Lategan — two former Rebels — Chris Breese and Morgan Scriber — and a couple of players who Rotheisler said the team has made commitments to for the upcoming season.
“We’re still in the process of talking so we can’t obviously say anything about who they are yet,” he said. “But it was a really successful trip.”
The coach and general manager said he’s also been discussing trades with other GMs, but nothing has been finalized as of yet.
“Nor are we honestly that close to even finalizing anything, because we have so many returning guys,” said Rotheisler.
The majority of the returning players this season are forwards, so the coach has been working to identify strong defensemen.
“Defense, we do have a couple of holes that we’re filling, which we believe we’re halfway there,” said Rotheisler. “We really like the commitments that we’ve made, we expect them to commit back and … there’s just still one or two roles that we want to fill.”
He’s also looking at physically bigger players for this year and is looking at the team’s goaltending.
Rotheisler also believes he’s already filled the scoring gap left by Logan Styler, but can’t go into detail.
“The HCR [Hockey Canada Registry] opens I think June 1, where you can sign guys, so we can’t really go into names and stuff, but I believe that we have solved… obviously we lost some scoring with Logan Styler and I believe we’ve got that back,” he said.
Rotheisler will also need to make some decisions regarding the team’s leadership as captain Daniel Petten and assistant captain Styler both aged out.
“I would say in the next three weeks, we’ll probably announce a leadership group — who’s going to be the whole group — and then I believe we’re going to wait and see how it pans out to see who ends up wearing the captain,” he told the News.
Rotheisler will also have to decide on some cuts.
KIJHL teams are allowed to have a maximum of five 20-year-old players. Last year the Rebels only had three, but this year there are eight players born in 1997 and a ninth being considered, which means some of them will have to be cut.
But regardless of the decisions that still need to be made, the returning Rebels are excited for September.
“This team really feels like there was some unfinished business in the playoffs,” explains Rotheisler. “We really feel like our season was shorter than we wanted it to be.”
Rotheisler told the members and board of the Castlegar Hockey Society the same thing at the society’s annual general meeting last Wednesday as part of his coach’s report.
New board members were elected at the meeting as well, but the board is still looking for a billet coordinator.
“It’s an important position from a recruiting standpoint for us, because their home life is huge even for how they perform on the ice,” said Rotheisler.