Red Deer has had its fair share of success in its 28 season history, including winning a Memorial Cup. The team was also granted the opportunity to host the 2016 edition of the tournament. Including what would have been a season outside the playoff picture last year, the Rebels have missed the postseason dance just seven times. Only three times in the last 10 seasons has the team failed to reach the playoffs.
With that being said, there has been a great deal of offensive talent hitting the ice at Westerner Park Centrium during those 28 seasons. Looking at just the last 10, there have been names like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Wyatt and Reese Johnson, and Adam Kambeitz. While those names are easily remembered by Rebels fans, none of them fell in the top 5 scorers for the Rebels.
Again this time, the criteria used were only to include players that played in at least three seasons for the Rebels. This excluded Nugent-Hopkins, Andrej Kudrna, Rhyse Dieno, and Michael Spacek among other players from the last 10 seasons. Any season outside of the era was not used to calculate the total for any player. We’ve also made the tough decision to exclude Mason McCarty. He played in three different seasons for the Rebels, but in two of those seasons, he played nine or fewer games. This list is based on goals per game.
14 skaters in this group scored more than 50 goals in their careers. Just two hit 75.
Here are the names of the players who fell in the top 15 but did not hit the top 5, in order: Adam Kambeitz (15), Grayson Pawlenchuk (14), Tyson Ness (13), Brooks Maxwell (12), Cam Hausinger (11), Presten Kopeck (10), Wyatt Johnson (9), Adam Musil (8), Turner Elson (7), Josh Tarzwell (6).
5. Reese Johnson
Many may not have expected to see Johnson on this list, especially since he sustained a shoulder injury and missed all of the 2016 season. Johnson still managed to score 55 goals in just 187 games with the Rebels over four seasons. Only 13 of his goals came with the man advantage, and he scored seven times when killing penalties. Johnson was never drafted by an NHL team but did sign a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of his 20-year-old season. He then spent 2019-20 with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL, posting four goals and four assists in 52 games.
4. Evan Polei
Considered a fan favourite for his entire career, Polei did it all for the Rebels during his tenure. Brought in from the Saskatoon Blades after just two games, Polei punched his way into the hearts of fans in Red Deer pretty quickly. His hands kept him there, scoring 72 goals over 242 games. He was fourth in scoring in the era including a career-high in 2016-17 of 33 goals. He also scored one of the most memorable goals in team history, putting home the game-winner in overtime against the Brandon Wheat Kings during the 2016 Memorial Cup when Red Deer hosted.
Polei is now a member of the San Antonio Rampage, the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate. Last season, he participated in just 21 games, scoring once and adding four assists.
3. Conner Bleackley
Tumultuous is the best way to describe Bleackley’s career in Red Deer. The High River, AB, native was thrust into 16 games of action in his first taste of Rebels hockey, scoring his first goal a couple of weeks before his 16th birthday. In his third season, Bleackley was named captain of the team and scored his career-high of 29 goals. The following season he struggled through some injuries and didn’t match that goal total. In the Memorial Cup season, his role was slightly diminished and he also missed more time with injuries. He only scored 13 times in that season, his last in the WHL. Bleackley did end up scoring the second-most goals of the era with 80. He also had three playoff goals in 17 games.
Bleackley was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft but went unsigned. He was then redrafted by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth round in the 2016 NHL Draft. Since then, Bleackley has bounced around the AHL and ECHL, playing for eight teams over four seasons. In 33 ECHL games last season he had nine goals and 14 assists, while also playing 11 AHL games, posting three goals and two assists.
2. John Persson
The 41st overall selection at the 2009 CHL Import Draft, Persson made his way to North America following a successful season in junior hockey in Sweden. The forward from Ostersund, SWE, struggled in his first season as many Europeans do when they come to play in the CHL. Also, as many Europeans do, his subsequent seasons showed a vast improvement. Persson became a veteran of 200 WHL games, all with the Rebels, scoring 63 times. He also added two goals in 11 playoff games.
Persson was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders and did play 10 games with the team in 2013-14 as a call up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Following three seasons in North American professional hockey, mainly in the AHL, Persson returned to Sweden. He has since played for three teams in the SHL as well as 39 games in Liiga with SaiPa. Persson is signed for the 2020-21 season with Brynas IF of the SHL.
1. Brandon Hagel
Signed by the Rebels following three games in the 2015-16 season with the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL, Hagel scored his first WHL goal in his fifth game and never looked back. He finished his WHL career following the 2018-19 season, one in which he hit a career-high 41 goals. In that same season, he reached the 100 goal plateau and finished with 103 WHL career goals. This placed him fourth all-time in goals by a Red Deer Rebel. The playoffs are where Hagel was clutch, scoring 17 times in 33 playoff games including three game-winning goals.
Hagel was drafted in the sixth round in 2016 by the Buffalo Sabres but went unsigned. The Chicago Blackhawks put pen to paper on the overage free agent in his final season in Red Deer. He has since suited up with the Rockford IceHogs. In 67 games in the AHL, Hagel has scored 19 goals and added 13 assists. He also played one game in the NHL and is part of the Chicago Blackhawks roster as they play in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.