Kelowna Rockets defenceman Devin Steffler promises he’s ready to ramp up his game as he enters his sophomore year with the Rockets.
Last season was a big adjustment for the then 18-year-old Steffler as he made the switch to playing hockey in North America after two seasons in Europe.
You may have never guessed that the six-foot-two, 187-pound defender is half Austrian or that he spent two seasons playing hockey in Europe.
Born to an Austrian father and an American mother, Steffler has dual citizenship.
He attended Okanagan Hockey Europe where he was able to experience the European style of game.
“I grew up in Colorado,” said Steffler. “My older brother Kele was with me for my first year in Austria. We attended an international school where we were taught in English. We played teams from all over Europe, like Hungary and Slovakia.
“It was a lot of fun to play there. It was cool to experience the different cultures and see the different ways that the game is played. Going there was a great experience for me.”
Steffler’s older brother is also a defenceman; he’s currently playing hockey in Austria with Klagenfurt Athletic Sports Club in the Alps Hockey League.
Steffler says there is a difference in the way the game is played, but he found his footing thanks to everyone around him.
“There was a big adjustment for me coming back to North America with the ice,” he said. “Over there, we were playing on Olympic-sized ice. I’ve found that in Europe, it’s more of a skating game and that here it’s definitely more physical with more quick movements.
“Last season, I thought I was improving as the season went on. The coaches and the guys really helped me with my game.”
The Durango, Colorado, product had seven assists while playing in 64 games for Kelowna last season. Wanting to build off of his rookie campaign, he returned home to Colorado to train.
He put on nearly 20 pounds since he first came into the league.
“I spent my summer training hard getting ready for this season, and I also went over to Austria for three weeks to visit Kele. I’m looking forward to this season, and hopefully, at the end of it we’re lifting the Memorial Cup.”
Head coach Adam Foote said he has taken notice of the work that Steffler put in.
“I’m impressed with Steff,” said Foote. “To see the steps that he has taken over the last five months has been great. He has been working out, gaining the weight and working on his shot. You can tell that his confidence is way up.”
Steffler and the Rockets will play their final two games of the preseason this weekend during a home and home series with the Kamloops Blazers.
They’ll face Kamloops on the road Friday night then host them at Prospera Place at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.
Two dollars from every ticket sold will be donated to Cops for Kids.
Rebels cleaning house
The Victoria Royals and Red Deer Rebels have agreed on a deal that sees defenceman Jacob Herauf moving to the Island in exchange for three bantam draft selections.
The Rebels will receive a second-round pick in 2020, a sixth-round selection in 2021 and a conditional selection in 2022.
The Rebels drafted Herauf — a 6-0, 190-pound Sherwood Park, Alta., native — 16th overall in 2015.
Last season, he appeared in 66 games, scoring a goal and 15 assists. The 19-year-old Herauf has played 186 WHL games with the Rebels, recording 40 points (3G-37A).
Prior to the start of the 2018-19 WHL season, Herauf attended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp as an undrafted invite.
The Rebels and Seattle Thunderbirds also came together on two trades this off-season. On Monday, they sent forward Alex Morozoff to Seattle for a fifth-round selection in the 2021 bantam draft.
A 6-0, 189-pound Saskatoon native, Morozoff scored career-high totals last season, recording 15 points (8G-7A) in 64 games. As part of his eight goals, he notched one power-play goal and three game-winning goals.
Morozoff, 18, has appeared in 94 WHL regular season games, posting 23 points (14G-9A), including four power-play goals and three game-winning goals. He has one assist in seven career WHL playoff games.
On Aug. 27, the Thunderbirds acquired defenceman Hunter Donohoe from the Rebels in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft.