Johnson's a Rebel with a cause

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Tyler Johnson is the forgotten man. When Calgary Flames fans think of prospects on the Red Deer Rebels, the name that immediately springs to mind is Dion Phaneuf.

It doesn't end there, though.

Despite being rarely mentioned, Johnson is also in the Flames long-range plans, although he's not often brought up in conversation.

"That's fine," said the soft-spoken centre. "Dion's a great player and deserves a lot of press. I'm just happy being drafted, I guess. It's not a big deal to me."

Selected in the sixth round, 173rd overall, in 2003, Johnson is bit of a project. The product of Breton, Alta., skates well and at 6 ft. 2 in. and 195 lb., has the makings of a solid checking centre.

It's a role he knows he must excel at in junior to get the same opportunity as a pro.

"It's nice to get points but you've got to be solid at both ends of the ice. I know I'm not a high-scoring guy, so I just play my role," he said.

"I still put pressure on myself to produce a bit but it's comforting knowing if I don't get a ton of points, I'll still be able to help my team by killing penalties and playing a more defensive role."

In 32 games prior to last night's tilt in Brandon against the Wheat Kings, Johnson had eight goals and 10 assists.

However, over the next few weeks, there will be greater expectations from Johnson and his linemates Blair Jones and Ty Morris.

Not only is Phaneuf with Canada's entry at the world juniors but so is captain Colin Fraser. As well, leading scorer Roman Wick is gone to play for Switzerland.

"It's a good challenge for some of the players to see if we can step up," Johnson said. "We can't fill those gaps with two great players missing but we'll try our best.

"I'll pretty much play the same role, maybe a little bigger leadership role. They probably expect a little more offence. Maybe I'll get a little more powerplay chances."

Defenceman Mikko Kuukka has also left to play for Finland.

Another couple of Rebels, forward Jordan Knackstedt and defenceman Eric Frere, will leave for the world under-17 tourney Dec. 29-Jan. 4.

The exodus has the makings of a swoon but Brent Sutter -- gone to coach Canada's world junior entry -- told the charges staying behind he expects to return to a team fighting for top spot in the WHL's Central Division.

"He expects a lot from us and we expect a lot from ourselves, also," Johnson said.

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MONSTER TALES: Heading into last night's game in Worcester -- played without head coach Tom Rowe behind the bench due to a suspension from last weekend's brawl with Norfolk -- the Lowell Lock Monsters had won four straight and six of seven to move up the standings.

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WRANGLER WRAP: On the surface, Thursday's 6-0 win over Bakersfield sounds like a rout but lost in the score was that goalie Sebastien Centomo stopped 49 shots to record his first shutout of the season.


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