September 18 2012 05:09PM
The Edmonton Oil Kings gave our city a tremendous thrill this spring and are back for another season. They are regarded as one of the best teams in the league, and should contend for the title again. For Oiler fans, there are some quality prospects already in the system to watch--and one very good center who looks like a top 10 pick in the 2013 entry draft.
THE OILER PROSPECTS
Martin Gernat had a helluva season in 11-12, emerging as a quality option on the powerplay and moving up the depth chart smartly. Gernat has not played during the pre-season, and has a 'lingering injury' to his upper body based on reports. If he can play a full season and takes a step forward, Gernat's transition from junior to pro will be a much anticipated event this time next year.
Update: As listeners to Jason Gregor's show will know by now, Gernat's shoulder injury is now officially a concern. Jason spoke with Oil Kings GM Bob Green today and he suggested Gernat might be out for awhile. Bruce McCurdy has more here.
Mitchell Moroz took a giant leap forward during the Sep-Apr time period and the Oil Kings (and Oilers) will be hoping for more of the same this winter. I was astounded by the reaction to my reaction after the pick--a lot of hockey people were strong on Moroz and that was not reflected accurately in the season ending rankings. In this way, a fan's disconnect to the hockey industry becomes obvious on draft days. Moroz is 'trending' in a big way, and may get a push this season on a skill line. He is one of the main 'players to watch' in the entire system.
Travis Ewanyk lost most of the regular season in 11-12 to injury, but he was healthy during the long playoff run and should be good to go this season. Ewanyk played in a couple of pre-season games and will be a big part of this year's team. Although not known for his point production, Ewanyk did score 16 goals in his draft season.
PLAYER TO WATCH 12-13
The first time I heard the name 'Lazar' came while driving down the road listening to Corey Graham and Kent Simpson on the Oil Kings broadcasts (Team 1260, season opens Thursday night). Lazar has inspired some impressive verbal from very important places, including Washington Capitals director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney:
- “I think he’s a very honest player for his age. Sometimes the younger players come in and they’re very talented but they have to learn to play a little bit better away from the puck and backcheck, but he’s an honest player. He finishes every check, he goes hard to the net, he works in all three zones of the ice."
Lazar is already 6.00, 198 and won't turn 20 until you're shopping for a 2015 Valentine's gift--lots of room to grow in the mean time. He led the team in playoff scoring (tied with Michael St. Croix--19 points in 20 games) and delivered a strong second half for the club.
The excellent blog WHL From Above says the following:
- Lazar is a hard working kid with good size, skating ability and excellent offensive skills. He's shown the ability to play centre, as well as some wing and has also grown to be a very competent defensive player. He plays the game much like NHLer Shane Doan.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
History tells us the three Oilers prospects will go one of three ways: derailed by injury, hit a wall early in their pro career and veer off into the sunset, or find a way to beat the odds and win NHL employment. This season we should expect a big step forward from Moroz based on role and opportunity, and for the other two men its a matter of building on what has gone before.
And for Lazar? His draft season begins with the young man among the 10 best draft prospects on the planet. That's a lot of pressure, but his skills appear to warrant the praise. He is a player to watch.