After missing the playoffs for the past two seasons the Oil Kings were able to make an incredible run into the Western Conference Finals where they ultimately lost in six games to the Prince Albert Raiders.
They’ll be looking to build on those ten playoff wins with a talented roster and defend their Central Division crown this season.
Next Man Up
Edmonton will have an incredibly hard time finding a replacement for Trey Fix-Wolansky’s skill, leadership, and production as he gears up for his first pro season. Not to mention they’ll be missing their number two and three leading scorers with Vince Loschiavo and Quinn Benjafield ageing out of the league.
Figuring out a way to account for their leading scorer Trey and his 37 goals and 102 points are going to be a difficult task for the Oil Kings. Asking for that type of production probably isn’t realistic, but they could solve that problem with a multitude of players this season.
Edmonton did go out and acquire a player they think will be able to take on a big chunk of the offensive responsibility this year. Riley Sawchuk had twenty goals and 53 points for Tri-City last year and the Oil Kings will be looking at him to be barring the brunt of that lost production this season.
Although it was just the preseason, Sawchuk had a monstrous one to the tune of four goals and nine points in only four games. Which is a more than encouraging sign for Oil Kings fans.
Edmonton will also be getting a few more veterans who’ll be expected to pick up the offensive production. Carter Souch had 45 points last season while Liam Keeler had 24 and both will probably be looking to increase that production will more opportunity this season.
Bringing In A New Age
Sawchuk won’t be alone upfront as he’ll have a few top forwards alongside him including top prospect Jake Neighbours (11 goals in 47 games) who’s currently Craig Button’s 31st ranked player for the upcoming draft. Although he won’t be the only forward prospect for the Oil Kings this season.
Jaylen Lupen had a promising rookie campaign himself although he was mostly earning his minutes on the fourth line but still managed seven goals in 47 games. Both players a year old should be vastly improved and confident this season.
But perhaps the player most Oil Kings fans are excited about watching this year is 2018 1st overall pick, Dylan Guenther. In his first eight games of WHL action last year he was able to notch three goals and added an assist while looking more the part of a future star in the league. At just 16-years-old, Guenther will be getting his first full season for the Oil Kings will easily be one of the best youngsters in the WHL.
Those three exciting prospects upfront will be joined by Finnish Import selection Jesse Seppälä who had over a point per game for Tappara (Jr. B SM-sarja).
A few more 17-year olds will be getting their first real crack at more ice time this season. Raphael Pelletier, Brenden Kuny and, Tyler Horstmann all got a few games last season with the Oil Kings but have now made the team and will be fighting for bigger roles this time around.
Breakout Year Candidates
A breakout for Josh Williams was predicted by many draft pundits but unfortunately, he was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility. Although Williams 14 goals were less than people predicted he had an incredible Hlinka-Gretzky Cup last year where he scored five goals and six points in just five games.
Another year older I think Williams is motivated to have a huge year and prove every NHL team wrong.
David Kope, Vladimir Allistov and Scott Atkinson were other draft-eligible forwards for the Oil Kings that were able to score over 10 goals last season. All four will be aligned for breakout seasons with more opportunity in the lineup this season and the hunger to keep their NHL dreams alive.
Rock Solid Back End
Perhaps the biggest strength the Oil Kings will have this year is their back end. They’ll be getting their 4th leading scored back with Connor McDonald, as well as the New York Rangers recent 2nd round draft pick Matthew Robertson.
Those two could form one of the best pairings in the league but just like the forward group, the defence won’t be top-heavy either.
Wyatt MacLeod and Ethan Cap will be returning for their 4th season with the Oil Kings after taking big offensive steps last season. Both put up career highs in goals and assists while having the second (+27) and third (+22) best plus-minus last season for Edmonton.
They’ll be joined by Jacson Alexander who’s finally healthy after an injury-plagued season although he did manage to notch 5 points in 15 games last season.
Along with Logan Dowhaniuk and Aiden Lawson, who were able to suit up for over thirty games apiece last season but will probably be platooned in and out of the lineup with 2018 1st round pick Keagan Slaney.
Battle Of The Goalies
The Oil Kings will have three goalies once again with the Dylan Myskiw being the presumed starter after posting the 5th best goals-against average (2.53) and a 0.914 save percentage.
Although he should be pushed hard by backup Todd Scott and rookie Sebastian Cossa.
Scott was a reliable backup goalie last year winning 11 of his 17 games while sporting good statistics, but he should be pushed hard by Edmonton’s 2017 2nd round pick Cossa.
Yet to play a real WHL game Cossa will get his chances this year to prove himself and was able to put together a fantastic five games in the preseason where he sported a 0.970 save percentage and a 1.79 goal against average.
A Year To Build On
Overall, expectations should be high for the Oil Kings. They should be one of the best teams in the CHL this year. Currently, they are ranked number eight on the CHL’s top 10 list, although that list should be taken as a grain of salt, it goes to show how the team is thought of this year.
General Manager Kirt Hill has done an excellent job assembling a deep roster that was ready for the losses of Fix-Wolansky, Loschiavo and, Benjafield. The team offers a great mix of talented youngsters like Neighbours and Guenther, while still having top veterans like Connor McDonald, Riley Sawchuk and Dylan Myskiw.
The season kicks off this weekend with a home-and-home against the Red Deer Rebels, which bodes well with the Oil Kings as they had their number last year going 5-1-1 against them.