Prince Albert Raiders prospect Rhett Rhinehart didn’t waste any time in making his presence known in the Western Hockey League.
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound defenseman opened his WHL career with a bang, laying a devastating body check on Saskatoon Blades forward Caleb Fantillo just a few seconds into his first shift in a Raiders uniform last season.
Despite only checking in for two games at Christmas last season, Rhinehart said the experience was a dream come true.
“It was awesome. It’s always been a goal of mine to play in the Western Hockey League and playing two games last year was awesome,” Rhinehart said.
Though he saw limited ice time, the young right-handed-defenceman said he gained some valuable insight into the WHL style of play during his brief stint with the Raiders last season.
“Just seeing their style of game, I think I’ll be able to fit in pretty well,” he said.
For Prince Albert, Rhinehart’s two-way style could be a welcome addition to a blue line which struggled to produce offensively last season.
Although he considers himself a two-way defenceman at this stage, the first round, 13th overall at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft has some offensive upside as well.
The Lloydminster, Alta. product notched 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 25 games as a rookie with Yale Hockey Academy Prep last season, the most out of any defenseman in the CSSHL Midget Prep league.
“It was great. We played in a very competitive league. Lots of good kids on the other teams. The overall league was very good and the compete level was awesome,” Rhinehart said of playing at Yale.
The 15-year-old said he has been hard at work over the off-season in an effort to secure a full-time spot on the Raiders’ roster next season.
“I’ve been doing lots of quick-feet stuff. It’s really fast out there and that’s one thing that I haven’t been the strongest at, so it’s something that I’ve been working at a lot,” he said.
In addition to his regular on-ice training, Rhinehart also had the opportunity to don the maple leaf crest when he attended the Hockey Canada U17 Summer Development Camp in Calgary last month.
“I got to play with lots of the guys that I played against during the [regular] season, I got to connect with them on a more personal level. I also got to meet lots of new guys from out East, which was good,” said Rhinehart, who posted one assist in three games with Team Green at the camp.
He added that he learned some new things at the development camp that he’ll be able to apply to his game this season, especially as he looks ahead to Raiders training camp, which begins later this week.
“One thing that they stressed there was attention to detail, doing the little things right and trying to take the little things away and put it towards next season,” he said.
“If I go in there and play the way I can play, I believe that I will be on that roster.”
Rhinehart and the Raiders kick off the 2017 WHL Pre-Season on Sept. 3 when they host the Saskatoon Blades at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop on that game is at 1 p.m. MDT.