The true test of an offensive defenseman is how many goals he scores. Being able to pass the puck to a forward in your own zone and receive a second assist on a goal isn’t a true marker of players who provide the team with offense. Many of the players listed below were good in their own end but excelled with the puck on their stick in the team’s end of the ice.
Some will say that these defensemen don’t play the “Sutter way”, which to some means playing extremely well in your own end and never appearing on the scoresheet. To this writer, the “Sutter way” is much more about playing the game the right way and playing to your strengths. Trying to do too much or making fancy plays will get you an earful on the bench, even some extra time riding the pine.
These defensemen certainly took some risks, but over time, they gained the trust of their head coach and earned valuable minutes on the power play as well as time in clutch moments. Many of them went on to NHL careers and can credit learning to play the “Sutter way” for elevating their game to that next level.
Players who played in less than three seasons were not put on the list. That means future NHLers Darren Van Impe and Ross Lupaschuk were not included. They both played big roles with the Rebels in their short time with the club and scored at impressive rates. Longevity was also part of the process in deciding the Top-5 offensive defensemen.
Honourable mentions: Jim Vandermeer, Mike McBain (the only American player on the list), Haydn Fleury, and Alex Petrovic
5. Jeff Woywitka
Woywitka spent his entire WHL career with the Rebels and played in 268 games. In his time with the team, he scored 41 goals with his best season coming in 2002-03 as a 19-year-old. He scored 16 goals in just 57 games that year, with seven of them coming on the man advantage. During that season, he made Team Canada and missed time for the camp and tournament. Woywitka added five goals over 72 playoff games but went goalless during the team’s Memorial Cup run. After being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Woywitka went on to split 10 seasons between the NHL and AHL, finishing his career with the Augsburger Panthers of the DEL in 2014-15.
4. Colton Bobyk
A bit of a surprise player for the Rebels, Bobyk played in 164 games over two and a half seasons. His booming slap shot earned him 20 goals in the 2015-16 season. He took advantage of the power play time afforded him in 15-16 as he scored 11 times with the man advantage. Overall he finished with 29 goals as a Rebel, scoring at .1768 goals per game. Bobyk added three goals in 27 playoff games for the Rebels. Bobyk played last season with Red Deer Sr. Rustlers of the NCHL.
3. Doug Lynch
In 229 games as a Rebel, including 84 as the team captain, Lynch scored 49 goals. It is likely he would have surpassed the 50 goal mark, but he was traded to the Spokane Chiefs in his final season in the WHL. Lynch’s best season came in 2001-02 when he scored 21 times in 71 games. Lynch was the beneficiary of a lot of time on the power play, scoring 16 of his 21 goals with the man advantage. He also played in 47 playoff games with the Rebels, scoring another six goals. He was a second-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers and played two NHL games before a couple of AHL seasons. Lynch settled into several seasons in Europe, mainly playing in the EBEL. He retired from hockey following the 2013-14 season.
2. Dion Phaneuf
The most prolific scorer among Rebels defensemen, Phaneuf scored 64 goals over his 255 games with the team. At the time he was drafted by the Calgary Flames, he was the earliest drafted defenseman from the Rebels, going ninth overall. Phaneuf showed continued development through his four seasons in Red Deer, posting point totals of 17, 30, 43, and 56. In his final season, as a 19-year-old with the Rebels, he scored a career-high 24 goals with half coming on the power play. Six of those goals were game-winners, the most on the team. Phaneuf also scored 10 career playoff goals over 70 games. Following a 14 season NHL career, Phaneuf did not play in 2019-20 but has not officially announced his retirement from hockey.
1. Matt Dumba
Dumba tops the list having scored at a slightly better goal-per-game rate than Phaneuf (.2563 vs. .2510). Following his best season as a Rebel (69GP, 20G, 37A), Dumba was drafted by the Minnesota Wild seventh overall. Of his 20 goals in his draft year, nine were scored with the man advantage. Overall, Dumba played just 199 games with the Rebels over four seasons, scoring 51 goals. He is the only other player in Rebels history to score more than 50 goals with the team as a defenseman. In 2013, Dumba’s rights were traded to the Portland Winterhawks for Presten Kopeck and three conditional second-round draft picks. Dumba did report to the Winterhawks following a 13 game stint in the NHL with the Wild. Over his 18 WHL playoff games with the Rebels, Dumba had four goals. He remains a member of the Minnesota Wild, competing in the NHL’s current playoff for the Stanley Cup.