RDC hockey Kings head coach Trevor Keeper had an idea of what he was getting when he recruited Tanner Butler prior to the 2014-15 Alberta Men's Hockey league season.
"I watched him a lot in the Western Canadian (junior A) finals and the Royal Bank Cup, where he was one of the best defence man there, and knew he was offensively gifted. What I didn't know was how good of a defender he was, but that became apparent as soon as he got here," said Keeper.
Butler joined the Kings after spending three seasons with the Dauphin Kings of the MJHL where he was defence man of the year in the 2012-13 season and top scorer among defensemen with 58 points.
"That award helped me a lot, but it was still a little scary jumping into college. I was 21 coming into a league where you're playing against guys 25 0r 26. It was certainly different than junior, but as the years went on I developed into the player I should be," said the 25 year old native of Souris MB.
Tanner felt it took time for him to develop, but not Keeper.
Right from the beginning you could tell how good he was. Cody (associate coach Reynolds) was looking back the other day and saw by the end of the first month Tanner was in out top-four-D-men.
Butler was no stranger to playing top-four minutes.
"I was always in the top-two in junior...playing with the top players made me a better player. I felt I could be in the top-four here as well".
He was definitely one of the top defensemen on the Kings.
"He's one of the more difficult players to play against one-on-one in practice", said Keeper. "Guys will move to the back of the line. or switch spots so they can avoid him".
As expected for a fifth-year player, he's one of the team leaders.
"He's a quiet leader. He doesn't speak a lot but he's respected and the guys look up to him," added Keeper.
Butler played midget with the Southwest Cougars and was drafted in the 10th round )211th overall) in the 2008 WHL draft by the Brandon Wheat Kings.
"It would have been great to play there as Brandon is 30 minutes away from my hometown, but it didn't work out," said the five-foot-11, 185-pound Butler.
"I was hoping to go the college route and get a Div 1 scholarship to the States, but it wasn't to be. But in the end it turned out great...I'm happy to play in Red Deer. I got comfortable here and we have a great group of guys."
And playing five years?