It can be tough to pull positives from a week where you lose the only two hockey games you play in, but that’s exactly what I’m going to try and do while looking back at the past week of Edmonton Oil Kings hockey.
They kicked things off with a matchup against the Victoria Royals and this was far from an entertaining hockey game. These two teams looked sluggish for long periods of time.
Victoria would walk away with a 3-2 win, but the Oil Kings deserved a better fate, they just ran into a hot goalie. Royals goalie Griffen Outhouse stopped 35 of the 37 shots the Oil Kings threw at him.
Another bright spot was the play of Vladimir Alistrov, who registered a pair of points. He’s up to 18 on the year. He’s been a little inconsistent at times, but that should have been expected from a player coming to a foreign country and playing his first year of hockey in North America. I couldn’t imagine the lifestyle adjustment required to move across the world at just 17-years-old.
Still, Alistrov continues to look more and more comfortable as the season continues. His best hockey in an Oil Kings jersey is without a doubt still ahead of him. As he continues to develop I expect the forward, who’s eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, to continue to see his role grow. All you need to do is watch one game and you can he’s a gifted offensive player. He does stuff with the puck that you simply cannot teach.
An area of concern in this game was their powerplay, which didn’t score on six attempts. A half decent powerplay would have propelled the Oil Kings to overtime.
This was also just the sixth game of the season where Trey Fix-Wolansky was held without a point.
Next up for the Oil Kings were the Lethbridge Hurricanes who came into this game just one point back of Edmonton for top spot in the Central Division.
Just like in the Victoria game, there were stretches of this game that were very sloppy. Neither team seemed motivated at moments which was disappointing considering how hyped up the matchup was.
The Oil Kings hung right with a Hurricanes team that without a doubt has their eyes on a championship. Don’t believe me? Check out the trade they made earlier this season.
Down by two heading into the third period, Connor McDonald blasted home a powerplay marker early in the final frame to bring the home side within one goal. Edmonton had more chances, and had their powerplay scored on more than one of their seven chances, they likely could have brought this game to overtime as well, but a Hurricanes goal with eight minutes to go and an empty-netter would give Lethbridge a 5-2 win and sole possession of first place in the Central.
It was almost a carbon copy of the Lethbridge game in the sense that two things sunk the Oil Kings: an awful powerplay and a hot goalie. Like I just said, they went a horrific 1/7 with the man advantage and they also threw 41 shots at Liam Hughes, who was dialed in.
Still, the Oil Kings are a banged up team. They’re currently without Matt Robertson, who’s their best defenseman, and rookie forward Jake Neighbours, who’s become a consistent offensive producer for this team. If the Oil Kings had those two players in the lineup, it could have been a different game.
So the two losses sting, but this team is battling some tough injuries right now and if they can just figure out their powerplay and get it to a half-decent level, they would have likely brought both of these games to overtime. I don’t see a need to ring any alarm bells after these this past week. If anything, I’m more confident in their ability to play with good teams.
TRADE DEADLINE NOTES
The WHL’s Trade Deadline comes on January 10th this year. Here are some notes on what I expect from GM Kirt Hill:
- Pretty much a guarantee that they will move one of their three goaltenders. Dylan Myskiw is the starter now and I don’t think they’ll move Boston Bilous. That leaves Todd Scott as the odd man out. Even though he’s been serving as the backup recently and Bilous has been the third goalie, I expect Scott to be moved for a pick before the deadline.
- Matt Robertson might be out longer than I originally expected. I don’t know 100% the timeline, but I know they will be very cautious with him. If he is out for a while, I could see Hill possibly exploring the market for a defenseman but at this point, I’d say it’s still unlikely. They just got Will Warm back after he missed 35 games, that kind of acts like a deadline pickup.
- They already acquired Andrew Fyten from the Swift Current Broncos. He’s stepped in a been a point per game player for Edmonton since the trade (8 points in 8 games). I think that was their one big move. I love the veteran presence he brings to this lineup and I think he’ll get more effective as the games become more meaningful.
- Trading Trey Fix-Wolansky. He’s been the best offensive player in the entire WHL this season and he’s done it without a lot of help on most nights. If the Oil Kings moved him, they could probably get a teams top two 15-year-olds, a solid roster player, and a massive package of draft picks. I’m not sure there’s a good fit out there and even if there was, I’d say there’s less than a 5% chance they move their leading scorer. The playoff experience will be very valuable for this team and I think they’re committed to trying to win a round this year. Also, there’s a chance that TFW could come back next season.
- In general, my strategy would be “don’t waste assets”. This year was supposed to be a year of growth and things have just gone surprisingly well. This isn’t a team worth giving up future assets to load up for. Next year? That’s a whole different story.