‘A complete hockey player’: Rebels Kai Uchacz scores when it matters most
Red Deer Rebels Kai Uchacz is having a memorable season.
And in the first 20 games of the season, you’d be hard pressed to find many more players in the Western Hockey League (WHL) who have been this effective on the offensive end.
Uchacz is currently second in the league with 16 goals behind Regina Pats star Connor Bedard and leads Red Deer with 24 points – an average of more than a point per game.
The 19-year-old forward from De Winton, Alberta. said the puck has found its way to his stick this year and he’s taken full advantage of it.
“At the start of the year I wanted to take advantage of my injury last year, but things are going well at the moment so I’m just going to keep working hard,” he said.
Uchacz has already surpassed his goal tally from the 2021-22 campaign where he scored 14 goals in 52 games. In terms of points, he is also 10 points short of his 33 points from last season.
Uchacz explained that he shot a lot more this season and that he worked in the offseason on that part of his game that paid off. He also practiced different ways to get into the offensive zone and improved his game in the corners.
He also scored when it matters most and is tied for second in the WHL with four game-winning goals.
“A few of them were in the third period just knowing we need a goal to go forward or a goal to win it. I think I put in a few in the third who helped us take that lead, so it was good,” he added.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said the biggest improvement he’s seen from Uchacz is that his speed is at a more consistent level.
“Last year you saw him sometimes, but he didn’t always play a fast game,” he said. “You have to play a quick game…and then you stay on top of your game, I think that’s the most important thing.”
Konowalchuk added that Uchacz seems to be looking to shoot first in the offensive zone more often and, more importantly, over the past month he’s had a great work ethic and been focused.
“It’s important, so it certainly helps him to be one of the best players in this league,” he added.
The Rebels bench boss described Uchacz as a two-way center who can also play a physical style of play and use his height to his advantage.
“He’s not a guy who cheats on offense or can really cheat on offense. He’s a guy [that gets] possession of the puck by playing well defensively, winning the puck on our side and creating an offense by overwhelming other teams with his size and strength.
“He’s a complete hockey player. The more you work without the puck, the more you get the puck and good things happen. »