By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News
While players were being called in mid-May at the 2022 WHL Draft, two players who played minor hockey in Picture Butte and Coaldale heard their names called.
Rhett Serfas (Picture Butte) was taken in the seventh round, 219th overall by the Edmonton Oil Kings, and Jager Gugelylka (Coaldale) was taken in the tenth round by the Edmonton Oil Kings. Both players also played Double A in Taber with the Golden Suns, and another teammate defenceman Noah Smith (Brooks) was taken in the sixth round, 126th overall by the Prince Alberta Raiders. Smith played for Kelowna Rink Hockey Academy (RHA) this past season where he had a goal and 12 points over 26 games. Serfas also spent the 2021-22 season playing for Kelowna RHA this past season where he collected one goal and eight assists over 30 games. Gugelylka meanwhile was with the Lethbridge Golden Hawks U15 AAA program where he had eight goals and 17 assists which saw him finish eighth in defenceman scoring in the entire U15 AEHL.
With all three graduating from the Golden Suns’ program in Taber, it’s a point of pride for the Suns as they see some former players take the next step. Each of the players played two seasons with the Suns and were in the organization as U13 players from 2018-2020.
“It is pretty cool — to have coached all three of them for at least two years and I watched them when they were even younger before coaching them. It’s pretty neat,” said Kevin Serfas, president of the Golden Suns. “I think the biggest thing to remember is this is just a foot in the door for these boys. There is a lot of work ahead of them to get to the point where they (play). The first step is to get offered a contract to play and then play, so the work has just begun for all of them. They are getting, each of these teams are getting hard-working, grit-type kids. They’ve come a long way since the first year that I coached them as 12-year-olds in the South Central (Alberta) Hockey League. They all skate well and they’re all hard workers.”
As a former coach, Serfas had a quick scouting report on what each WHL team will be getting in each player. Gugelylka is 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, and brings plenty to the table offensively from the backend.
“Rhett is the biggest out of all of them — he’s 6’4, so Kelowna is getting a bigger kid that has been working on his edges a lot. He’s a big defensive presence in all parts of the ice,” explained Serfas.
On the opposite end, Rhett Serfas is a bigger-bodied defenseman that reaches well over 6’ and weighs 190 pounds and with that extra size, he brings a dependable defence in his own zone.
“Rhett is the biggest out of all of them — he’s 6’4, so Kelowna is getting a bigger kid that has been working on his edges a lot. He’s a big defensive presence in all parts of the ice,” stated Serfas.
Last but not least, Smith is 5’9.5 and 140 pounds and he plays a two-way game very efficiently.
“Noah is a bit of a combination of the two of them. He’ll jump in the play when he has an opportunity, but defensively he is very sound as well,” continued Serfas.
Looking over the past players who moved on from the Golden Suns’ organization to that next level in their hockey career, Serfas says it’s a testament to the program and their commitment to developing players to be the best they can be. While the Suns saw some turbulence around the possible closure of their program, it’s been proven time and time again why the Golden Suns are a viable SCAHL organization.
“Right in the middle of when they were playing (in Taber) in 2018-19, that was the first year, there was a lot of chatter at that time and the Times had run some pieces about that Taber might lose the Golden Suns program. At the tail end of that first season, we fought like hell to keep the program around. Hockey Alberta wanted to take that away from us and we were left alone to continue, and we had a really good season the next year,” added Serfas. “It goes to show we’re doing a really good job of developing kids there. Throughout the years, there have been lots of kids to go on to play not only WHL but in different junior leagues — Junior A and Junior B. We’ve done a really good job in feeding some really high-end kids and moving them onto Triple-A and then Junior.”
While developing players and seeing them take the next step to Triple-A is a point of pride for the organization, it also creates holes in the organization.
“We always have issues when those kids move to U15 because a lot of those kids move onto play Triple-A. So as a U15, we’re bringing in a lot of new kids that have never played Double-A before — and that’s a good problem to have. We’re bringing in new kids, more kids, and different kids because we lost some to higher-end programs, so it’s one of those things where you have to be careful for what you wish for. As those kids move on, we have to work really hard to fill those spots, but at the end of the day, it is a very good thing,” said Serfas.