For the Oil Kings, their recent five-game road swing was really a microcosm of their season thus far. They kicked things off with a pair of overtime wins over two good teams in Regina and Brandon but simply didn’t have the horses to compete with the likes of Moose Jaw and Swift Current, both of whom loaded up their respective teams at the WHL trade deadline.
After grinding out two come from behind wins and then being outscored by a total of 17-3 in their next two games, it was anyone’s guess what we would see from the Oil Kings in the final game of their road trip when they took on the Kootenay Ice.
What we got was a red-hot start from Edmonton, something that was absent in the previous four games, and an excellent performance from the newly acquired goaltender Todd Scott who stopped 43 of the 44 shots he faced.
On Sunday they finally returned home and if I’m being honest, they didn’t look good. They failed to capitalize on multiple chances in the first period before an unfortunate bounce beat Todd Scott and gave the Kamloops Blazers a 1-0 lead.
The opening goal gave Kamloops all the momentum and allowed them to really take over this game, especially in the second period, a time in the game that Head Coach Steve Hamilton has not been pleased with as of late.
“You work to establish a little bit of a presence in the game with a decent start and then in the second period we’re just comfortable being second place and it kinda sets the tone for the rest of your game,” said Hamilton following the eventual 4-2 loss to the Blazers.
One positive I took from this game was the play of Brendan Semchuk. The 18-year-old forward was acquired in the deadline trade that saw Davis Koch go to Vancouver.
Since coming to the Oil Kings, Semchuk has been getting minutes with Trey Fix-Wolansky and Tomas Soustal on the teams top forward line, an opportunity he knows he can’t take for granted.
“It’s a huge opportunity and I think I’m making the most of it so I just have to keep going and playing my game,” said the Kamloops, BC native.
He definitely has been making the most of it with three goals in his first four games. The trio have quickly been developing chemistry, which Semchuk explained on Sunday, “They love the puck and it’s so easy to play with because they always make the right play”.
When asked about his role and what he has to do, Semchuk’s answer was simple, “It’s just my job to help get them the puck”.
A simple answer for a player who has been playing a simple, yet very effective game.
With him being only 18-years-old and this chemistry he’s showing with Fix-Wolansky is important. If this is something that they prove is sustainable over the last third of the season, then the Oil Kings have already filled an important hole on next years team.
Edmonton will be in action three times this coming week. They’ll host Medicine Hat on Wednesday before heading right back on the road for back-to-backs against the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders.
CENTRAL SCOUTING PRESENCE
NHL Central Scouting released their mid-season rankings and the list included a pair of Oil Kings.
Forward Brett Kemp was ranked 166th among North American skaters. The 17-year-old was acquired from Everett last season and has been grabbing my attention lately. It seems like he’s starting to feel like he really belongs in the WHL.
He’s noticeably more confident with the puck on his stick and it seems like the game has started to slow down for him. He has 22 points in 44 games this year, but as we move into next season it’ll be exciting to see him continue to grow into a key offensive contributor on this team.
The other name listed was defenseman Wyatt McLeod. The Dawson Creek, BC native has had an up and down year due to injury, but it was obvious this team misses his presence when he isn’t in the lineup.
He doesn’t exactly move the needle offensively, but he’s a decent skater who plays a steady game. As he continues to grow in this league, I believe he’ll be the type of d-man that can shut down the oppositions best on a regular basis.