The Red Deer Rebels are coming to Stettler on Saturday night, but they’ll be without the face of the Western Hockey League franchise.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top pick in the NHL entry draft last June, remains with the NHL team as the Rebels prepare for their WHL season.
Red Deer faces the Medicine Hat Tigers in a 7:30 p.m. clash Saturday at Stettler Recreation Centre in the final game on the Rebels’ pre-season schedule.
Red Deer coach Jesse Wallin said Tuesday night that half-a-dozen Rebels were still at NHL training camps, but one of them was headed back to the WHL team later that day as the Phoenix Coyotes returned forward Adam Kambeitz.
“We’ll be as close to our team as possible, but that may still look a little different than it will come (opening night),” Wallin said. “I don’t expect all of them back (before this Saturday).”
“These games don’t count in the standings, but you’re still trying to get tuned up and prepared for the regular season. It’s kind of the last crack for the real thing.”
The Rebels are also scheduled to face the Edmonton Oil Kings in a Friday exhibition game in Lacombe.
Red Deer begins its regular season at home Sept. 23 against the defending WHL champions, the Kootenay Ice.
Nugent-Hopkins is in his native British Columbia this week as the Oilers’ prospects participate in a Young Guns tournament.