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Oil Kings playing well, searching for consistency

On December 3rd, the Oil Kings were blown out by the Lethbridge Hurricanes by a score of 7-2. Edmonton team had just snapped their 12-game losing skid the game prior and it seemed like that may have been a turning point; instead, they gave up five powerplay goals and looked disinterested.

There have been a lot of bad losses this season, but something about this particular defeat stood out for me. It just seemed like a heavier loss than most.

It didn’t look like things were going to get much better as next up was the league-best Moose Jaw Warriors and once again I was surprised by the young Oil Kings team. This time for all the right reasons.

They came out hungry and motivated, even scoring the first goal of the game, which comes scarcely for this group. They slowed down a bit in the middle frame and even though Moose Jaw was able to stretch the lead to 3-1 early in the third, Edmonton seemed to find another gear.

They responded almost immediately as Tomas Soustal put home his seventh of the season and with less than four minutes to go, Colton Kehler capped off a strong third period and tied the game.

They lost in overtime but this was one of, if not the best, performances I’ve seen all season from this group. That one point that they earned from pushing this to overtime felt like a victory.

I walked out of Rogers Place on December 7th with an odd sense of confidence in this group.

The team headed off to Lethbridge for a game the next night, and similar to the Moose Jaw game, you could have excused a poor effort. They were facing a Lethbridge team that was over .500 and it was the second part of back-to-backs, I certainly wasn’t expecting a win.

Once again, the Oil Kings played a solid game and got a little help thanks to an off-night from Stuart Skinner. They scored two unanswered to once again complete a comeback before Trey Fix-Wolansky won the game in overtime.

The schedule didn’t get easy following that blowout loss to Lethbridge but they found a way to grab points in two straight games for just the second time this season.

They did get blown out again on Sunday against Swift Current, but that was the third game in four nights, I’ll excuse one lacklustre effort.

GOING FORWARD

It’s clear that this team isn’t good enough to compete. They’re a very young group and in junior hockey, it’s tough to succeed with mainly 17 and 18-year-olds. While sometimes they struggle in the skill department and can get worn down by more experienced teams, they usually give their best effort. There aren’t too many nights where the Oil Kings are out-worked by their opposition in my mind.

They currently sit eleven points out of a playoff spot, with two games in hand so while making the playoffs isn’t impossible, they’ll need to string together a lengthy winning streak to get back into the picture and I just can’t see that happening. That raises some questions pertaining to the league’s trade deadline, which comes in January, and what management should do.

The Oil Kings have played some of their best games against the top teams in the league, which gives me reason to believe that when they get a little more experience, they’ll be able to compete for a playoff spot. I think that could come as early as next year, but I don’t think they have that ability now.

However, the trade market isn’t exactly flooding with sellers in the WHL so if the Oil Kings dangle some big pieces like Trey Fix-Wolansky, Davis Koch, or Tomas Soustal, they might be able to grab a nice return.

Soustal is tough to move because he takes up two different spots as a 20-year-old and an import player. He would no doubt add great value to a team looking to go on a deep run, but I don’t think there’s a team out there that could fit him in.

Trey Fix-Wolansky is this team’s best pure goal scorer and is only 18-years-old meaning he could be an impact scorer on this team for two more years. I wouldn’t go around shopping Fix-Wolansky, but if some team came knocking with a big enough offer, I wonder if the team would bite.

Davis Koch is a player that I could see being made available, and I’ve heard his name mentioned. He’s 19-years-old and while he could come back next year, I think there might be some competitors who value his ability to play in all scenarios.

I don’t think the team will be too active over the next month, especially with the roster freeze looming, but if there is a name to watch it’s probably Davis Koch.