The Red Deer Rebels have reached the semi-finals in the WHL playoffs after upsetting the Moose Jaw Warriors in the second round. Red Deer still faces a stiff test against the Central Division winning Medicine Hat Tigers, but the Rebels have been feeding off players like Jared Walker on their way through the postseason so far and will continue to do so this week.
Walker, a 6’3” center, finished eighth in team scoring, with 11 goals and 8 assists, despite missing a handful of games due to a abdominal injury sustained in a game against the Kamloops Blazers. This was the first full season for Walker who played just 24 games for the Rebels last season.
A quick skating, two-way player, Walker has garnered some attention this season and was ranked 79th in Central Scouting’s Mid-Season grades.
Hockey’s Future was able to speak briefly with Walker at the onset of the playoffs.
HF: You were born in Winnipeg Manitoba, is that where you played your minor hockey too?
JW: Yeah, I started skating when I was four and I played in Winnipeg until I was 16 and I started playing (in Red Deer) for half a season. Then I moved back down and played junior A for the Canadiens, one of the three teams that play inside Winnipeg.
HF: What is your role with the Rebels this year?
JW: I’m the third line center so I’m a two-way player. I like to keep my plus/minus good and play defence first but I also like to chip in points and score goals too. The odd time they’ll throw me out there for the penalty kill and I think I do pretty well at it.
HF: Who have your regular linemates been this year?
JW: It’s changed a lot but I would say most of the time I’ve been with Jason Ertl (2004 eligible) and Joel Henituik (2004 eligible).
HF: Being that this is a draft year for you, I imagine it can get distracting with the extra pressure on you.
JW: There is but there isn’t. I really try not to think about it too much but it’s always in the back of your mind. Going to the prospects game and things like that make you think of being drafted but you can’t think about where you might go and stuff.
HF: You’re rated 79th in North America by Central Scouting and, like you mentioned; you did play in the prospects game. What was that experience like for you?
JW: It was fun. It was good to meet all the guys from the different leagues and everything but it was also good to compare myself to the other players to see where I think I might stack up when the draft comes.
HF: What would a successful season for you be this year?
JW: It would definitely be to go as far as we can in the playoffs. The better our team does the better the chances are for me personally to get drafted higher so that’s what I want. My success is tied in with the team’s success for sure.
HF: Do you have the team that can get to the Memorial Cup?
JW: I think so for sure. At the beginning of the season that might have been questionable but the way we’re playing right now going into the playoffs I think we can do some real damage.
HF: You missed a bit of time at the end of the regular season. What was the extent of your injury?
JW: In Kamloops I got crosschecked in the hip and tore some muscles in my abs but now I’m good. I missed four games because it was bleeding in there and it hurt while it was healing and stuff but now it’s good.
HF: Back to 100 percent now?
JW: Um…. Yeah, you know. (smiles).
HF: That’s right, it’s playoff time now so you actually only have a cold right?
JW: (laughs) That’s right.
HF: By now you must have heard yourself being compared to someone who is in the NHL.
JW: I actually don’t know whom other people might be comparing me to but I like to pattern my play after someone like Peter Forsberg that’s a really good defensive player but also can put points on the board too.
HF: What strengths stand out for you?
JW: I think my skating and my speed more than anything else, and my hockey smarts.
HF: Obviously you’re still a young player so there’s going to be things you still want to improve on right?
JW: I need to improve on my strength obviously because I don’t really weigh much right now. I’m 185 lbs and 6’3”. I think with the added strength will come a lot of things. Once I have the strength and the size I think the confidence will go up too and just improve my play.
HF: At this point do you care who drafts you just as long as someone does?
JW: As long as I get drafted I don’t care. I don’t really have a specific team of preference. My favorite team in the NHL right now is Vancouver though.