The way Red Deer finished the 2014-15 campaign – a five-game, first-round loss to Medicine Hat – you'd be forgiven for wondering how they would turn things around in time to be tough hosts of the Memorial Cup this year. But in a flash of activity, GM and coach Brent Sutter has begun to shake the foundations.
The most concrete move was securing a commitment from Michael Spacek, the gifted right winger from the Czech Republic. Spacek, who is in Alberta right now as part of the Czech's world junior summer camp squad, was taken in the fourth round by the Winnipeg Jets this summer and brings a great combination of speed, vision and deft hands. He spent most of this past year with Pardubice's men's team in the Czech Republic's highest league.
In other Rebels news, Sutter swung a trade to acquire the rights to Calgary Flames prospect Brandon Hickey, who is also in Alberta as part of Canada's WJC camp. A great skater who really built himself up physically as a freshman at Boston University, Hickey was taken in the third round by Calgary in 2014, but already looks like a steal.
But will Hickey leave the Terriers for Red Deer? Sutter only lost a fifth-round pick and two conditional selections to Tri-City in the deal, so it's hard to even call this a gamble – it's a huge win if Hickey comes and a blip if he does not.
Should Hickey come over, the Rebels would then have a pretty potent blueline. Carolina first-rounder Haydn Fleury leads the pack, while Nelson Nogier (another Winnipeg pick) and 2016 prospect Josh Mahura are two others to watch.
Up front, Spacek joins a crew headlined by Colorado first-rounder Conner Bleackley and St. Louis selection Adam Musil. There is still work to be done in Red Deer, but Sutter is off to a running start.