Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oil Kings 2012 Season Preview

The Oil Kings kick of defence of their 2012 WHL Championship on Thursday night against the Kootenay Ice.  The Kings return 18 players from last year and on paper are poised for another strong run at a Memorial Cup appearance in Saskatoon this season.  With the recent trading of Tristan Sieben to the Vancouver Giants and the release of veteran defender Ryan Dech, the roster now sits at a manageable 24 players.

Heading into the year the team named Griffin Reinhart their new captain, taking the reins from Mark Pysyk, who is expected to patrol the blue line for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.  TJ Foster, Michael St. Croix, Keegan Lowe, Travis Ewanyk and Curtis Lazar will be alternates.  The team also added former Oiler Sean Brown to the coaching staff alongside head coach Derek Laxdal, and newly minted Associate Coach Steve Hamilton.

New Faces:

#13 Brandon Baddock- The 17 year old forward joins the team after spending last season with the Lloydminster Bobcats of the AJHL.  Baddock, Edmonton's 7th round pick in the 2010 bantam draft adds size to the forward unit, and is expected to play a physical game for the Kings.  He posted a pair of goals and three points along with 91 PIMS last season.

#17 Luke Bertolucci- Another forward who spent last season in Junior A.  Bertolucci was a member of the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL last season, registering 18 points in 47 games as a 16 year old.  Smaller than Baddock, look for Bertolucci to play an energy role and be involved with the Kings PK unit.

#20 Brett Pollock- The lone 16 year old forward to crack the opening day roster, Pollock boasts both size (listed at 6'2) and skill.  He registered eight goals and 25 points in Midget AAA last season playing in Sherwood Park.

#23 Edgars Kulda- The Oil Kings had so much success with their last Latvian import (Kritians Pelss) they re visited Riga in the import draft and called Kulda's name.  He is the younger brother of former Winnipeg Jet/Atlanta Thrasher Arturs.  I don't think Kulda will be able to match the speed of Pelss, but look for him to play a similar style game and be involved offensively.  He picked up a pair of goals in four preseason outings.

#26 Stephen Shmoorkoff- Maybe the biggest surprise on the opening day roster, Shmoorkoff impressed throughout training camp and preseason and earned a spot on the blue line with the Kings.  He has shown the ability to calmly move the puck, jump into the play and stand up for his teammates.  He (like Kulda) is a late '94 birthday making this his draft year.  Last year he suited up for the AJHL's Sherwood Park Crusaders posting five points and 144 PIMS.

#37 Dysin Mayo- The smooth skating defenceman has already been compared to a young Mark Pysyk.  He is the lone right handed defender on the Oil Kings roster heading into the season.  The 16 year old has been very impressive during the preseason including scoring the overtime winner in the final game against Red Deer.

Moving On:

#3 Mark Pysyk- He was the face of this franchise for the first five years of their existence.  Pysyk was this club's first bantam pick, first modern era King to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft, and first to suit up for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.  The list could go on and on, as the Captain will leave a large hole for this club to fill both on and off the ice.

#17 Jordan Peddle-  Peddle made an immediate impact with the Kings after he was acquired in an early season deal with Swift Current.   A heart and soul type player he won a lot of battles in Edmonton and was a key contributor in the team's playoff run.  Peddle is planning on joining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies of the CIS this season.

#20 Rhett Rachinski- Another heart and soul Oil King heading to the CIS is former captain Rhett Rachinski.  The Edmonton product played his entire WHL career with the home town club, capping his junior career with a Championship.  Rachinski is staying in Edmonton joining former teammates Jordan Hickmott and Drew Nichol at the University of Alberta.  He has scored the two of the biggest goals in Oil Kings history, in Prince Albert in overtime of the tie breaker game to earn the Kings their first playoff spot in 2008, and scored the OT winner in Portland in game 4 of the Championship series this past season.

#22 Ryan Dech- The Winnipeg product was released from the club at the end of the preseason, victim of a numbers game on the back end.  Dech will be known as a great teammate during his time with the Kings, willing to do whatever it took to win.  No official word as of now where Dech plans to suit up this season.

#23 Tyler Maxwell- The 20 year old sniper paid huge dividends for the Oil Kings after being acquired from the Everett Silvertips in December of 2011.  He slid into the Kings top line alongside Mike St Croix and Dylan Wruck and the team immediately clicked, running off 11 straight wins before the Christmas break.  He is playing pro hockey is Austria with Red Bull.

#25 Tristan Sieben- The local product was dealt to the Vancouver Giants for 2014 Bantam Draft Pick after the final exhibition game.  As a 17 year old rookie last season Sieben showed flashes that should make him an everyday WHL'er on the West Coast.  He has the potential to play an energy role and should have a larger role with the Giants this season.

#26 Kristians Pelss- The Latvian speedster signed his NHL Entry Level Contract with the Edmonton Oilers during the playoffs last season.  He will likely be playing in either or Stockton of the ECHL or with Oklahoma City in the AHL.  The Kings will miss the speed that Pelss brought to the lineup, along with professional level shot.

The Kings open up at home on Thursday in a rematch of the first round of last year's playoffs with the Kootenay Ice.  They will raise their Championship banner and celebrate once more before the new season begins.  Faceoff is scheduled for around 7:20, and will be live on the Team 1260 at 6:45.  Stay tuned to the Team 1260 on Saturdays throughout the WHL Season as well for Oil Kings Weekly which airs at 5pm.

(All photos courtesy Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)