After leading all rookies in scoring in the Western Hockey League in 2004-05, forward Roman Wick has inherited the weight of the Red Deer Rebels on his Swiss shoulders.
Having lost last season’s captain Colin Fraser to the Chicago Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate Norfolk Admirals and alternate captain Dion Phaneuf to the Calgary Flames, Red Deer head coach and general manager Brent Sutter has turned to his second leading scorer from last season to lead a younger, more inexperienced Rebels squad through the course of the 2005-06.
Taking on a leadership role in Red Deer hasn’t phased Wick, who welcomed wearing a letter for this season. Being able to pass on what he’s learned in a leadership role has been both an encouragement and a challenge for the native of Zuzwil.
“Guys like Fraser and Phaneuf showed me the way last year and that’s what I have to do this year, show the younger guys the way. Younger guys have to step up and guys like me have to step up.”
Wick is also expected to duplicate last season’s success offensively, which saw him score 32 goals and 70 points. As a sophomore, expectations are rising.
But with just three goals and six points in eight games this season, Wick is off to a slow start. Similarly, the Rebels’ 5-9-0 record is the worst in recent memory.
Wick couldn’t help but shrug off both his club’s slow start, and his own lack of production.
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“It doesn’t matter who scores the goals,” said Wick. “We don’t have the same team as last year but we’ve got to work every game and get points.”
Wick admitted he feels pressure to perform this season. Not only is Wick taking up two ‘positions’ with the Red Deer Rebels, those being an overage spot as well as a European spot, something that is a rarity in the CHL.
“I don’t see a lot of Europeans take both spots so it’s definitely more work for me. I have to show that I deserve both spots.”
There are several theories surrounding Wick’s slow start. Increased pressures and responsibilities are one, while a training camp ‘hangover’ is another.
With expectations of skating for the Senators organization this season, Wick shifted through both the Ottawa Senators training camp as well as the Binghamton Senators training camp unsigned. The uncertainty for the 6’1, 190lb forward weighed on his mind.
“Well, I really didn’t know for the whole time where I was going to play this year,” admitted Wick. “(The Senators) told me I needed to still work on some things and that I needed to play one more year of junior and get lots of ice time.”
Still, though, the time spent in training camp wasn’t wasted on Wick, who quickly learned that there was plenty he needed to do and accomplish before making the jump to the professional game.
“It was a very good experience to practice with all those big guys,” said Wick. “I learned that there is still a lot of work to be done to get to that level. They told me I still have to work on my physical game and compete every game and work hard game in and game out. Consistency is important.”
Essentially, Wick is playing for a contract this season. With the summer deadline for signing 2004 draftees approaching, the Ottawa Senators will base a contract offer on Wick’s improvements this year.
“They told me it’s a very important season for me so I’ve got to prove myself this year,” said Wick. “They’ve got until June to sign me, so this season is huge, definitely. I really want to make it to the next level and it’s a very big season for me.”
Wick’s attention will be righting the Red Deer Rebels ship, as he looks to finish his junior career on a winning note, both for the Rebels and himself.
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