As the Oil Kings season comes to an end, as do the junior hockey careers of Colton Kehler and Tomas Soustal.
The weird thing about Junior Hockey is that, for the most part, you don’t choose when it ends. Both of these guys know that once the buzzer goes on Sunday in Calgary, their time with the Oil Kings will be done.
“Just driving to the rink for practice, you start to think about a lot of memories. It’s pretty crazy that it’s almost over,” said Kehler, reflecting on his time in the league.
Kehler, who’s 200th WHL game with the Oil Kings will come on Sunday, wore the ‘C’ this year for the team this season and that was something that he obviously took a lot of pride in.
On the ice, it was a career year for the product of Port Coquitlam, BC. His 31 goals put him up with Trey Fix-Wolansky atop teams’ leaderboard. But his contributions to this young group went far beyond what was on the score sheet.
“There’s no better substitute than your play on the ice but it’s on the bus, around the hotels, at meals. Those guys are certainly looked up to and respected,” said Steve Hamilton when asked about the leadership of his two veteran forwards.
While Kehler spent three years with the organization, Soustal came in via an early season trade with the Kelowna Rockets where he played over 50 playoff games and played in a Memorial Cup in 2015 with the team. That big-game experience was something that the Oil Kings didn’t have until they acquired the big Czech forward.
From the day he arrived in Edmonton, it was clear that Soustal would be relied on, not only to carry the offence but also help guide the Oil Kings young core.
“At times you can see the age gap and those two have been asked to carry a lot of the weight. They’ve taken that responsibility and never ducked from it” added Head Coach Steve Hamilton.
Both of these guys deserve a great deal of credit for how they’ve handled this season. On the ice, there were more than a fair share of lows, but they stuck to the plan, even when the results weren’t there.
Before this season started, Kehler knew that this was a team in transition but never complained publicly and was always there to answer for the team’s struggles. The same for Soustal, who could have probably asked for a move to a contender at the deadline, but hung around and believed in helping the young core.
Although they won’t be here next year when this team tries to push for the postseason, Head Coach Steve Hamilton knows that the team will be better because of the work put in by the two veterans, “There’s no substitute for first-hand experience or first hand battling against those guys in practice.”
Kehler knows that success will come for this group, even though he’s moving on, “They’re very close, we’ve seen spurts of it throughout the year. There’s a lot of talent, a bunch of motivated guys. Definitely, the future is bright.”