One product of the Ponoka Minor Hockey system is starting to make a big name for himself, although he doesn’t quite see it that way.
Reagan Rabbit, who is from the Montana First Nation and played his minor hockey locally until heading off to play Bantam AAA in Leduc the past two seasons, has found himself among the elite players in Alberta.
The 15-year-old, five-foot 10, 163-pound defenceman played on Team Central in the Alberta Cup this past March in Canmore and then was selected to participate in the Top 80 camp held July 8-10 in Camrose as just one of 24 defenceman with a chance to play on Team Alberta and possibly on Team West at the annual Under-17 World Hockey Challenge – slated to go this winter in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5.
“It was a long and hard weekend, but I learned a lot,” Rabbit said in a phone interview last week following the camp.
“We all knew each other and played with or against each other the past two years. To be picked among the top 24 defencemen was definitely a shock. You do compare yourself to those at the top, but only to show where you are and what you need to work on.”
Rabbit has played the past two seasons with the Leduc Bantam AAA Oil Kings – earning 11 points and 62 penalty minutes in 36 games last season. He also played nine regular season and five playoff games, grabbing six points in that time, for Leduc’s minor midget AAA club.
His size along with the continued improvement of his game got him noticed, not only by Hockey Alberta, but by scouts from the Western Hockey League in this, his draft year.
“Getting invites to several WHL camps was a big shock for me,” he said.
“Being in my second year, my goal was to get one invite and maybe selected in the draft. I got a number of calls during the season and the night before the draft I was told to keep my phone on and ready to hear back.”
Well, that didn’t happen – and according to his parents Jason and Darrilynn – he was somewhat disappointed, though he feels the fact he wasn’t selected was not a huge deal.
“It really wasn’t that big a deal as I didn’t expect it, but then the calls started to roll in with invites to a number of camps. That certainly made me feel better, brought my confidence up and showed that I could still compete so that really felt good,” Rabbit said.
In fact, he received seven invitations to WHL rookie camps and one main camp, which father Jason understands is huge for such a young player. Rabbit is planning on going to the rookie camp of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and then next week taking part in the main camp for the Kootenay Ice.
“He played in Ponoka from novice up until it was suggested he try out for (Leduc Bantam AAA) and then made it as a first year. Reagan doesn’t think he’s elite but the fact he was chosen among the best 80 players is a big accomplishment and the experience he will get this fall is something most 18 year-old players don’t get,” stated Jason.
“The difference there is now is it only gets harder from here and Reagan has basically done this flying by the seat of his pants, but you do the right things and doors begin to open.”
His dad added the disadvantages of being from a small town and not having the same opportunities players from larger cities have hasn’t really hurt, instead allowed Reagan to remain a kid with friends and being able to do other things.
“We are still happy he’s been able to still be a kid,” Jason stated, “though this year he was so busy he couldn’t play football or basketball.”
Following the WHL camps, Rabbit is expected to be back in Leduc playing either Midget AAA or minor midget.