I wasn’t expecting Oil Kings GM Kirt Hill to be terribly busy at this year’s trade deadline. I knew he was going to move one of his three goalies, and apart from that, I didn’t expect anything else to happen. That’s why, like a lot of people around the team, I was surprised when a second trade was announced.
They started the day by dealing goaltender Boston Bilous to the Prince Albert Raiders for a conditional sixth-round pick. I was expecting Todd Scott to be the odd man out, but I can see the reasoning behind moving out Bilous.
At one point, before my time around the team, Bilous was seen as the goalie of the future. Things didn’t pan out. He’s a good goalie, and I have no doubts about his ability to be a competent goaltender at the WHL level, but it just wasn’t working out in Edmonton. With three goalies on their active roster, they essentially got a draft pick for a piece they didn’t need. It’s a good deal in my opinion.
Now they’re left with Todd Scott (18-years-old) and Dylan Myskiw (19-years-old) as their two goalies, and I think that’s a solid tandem. They aren’t an elite duo, but they’ll do enough to keep you in hockey games. It’s also worth noting that both of them could hypothetically be back in the organization next year.
There’s also Sebastian Cossa, who is now being viewed as the starting goalie of the future for Edmonton. The 16-year-old Fort McMurray, Alberta product has been having a decent season with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers Midget AAA team and even got a chance to play with Hockey Canada at the U17 tournament this year. I believe he will be a full-time WHLer next season, which definitely played into the Oil Kings decision to move on from Bilous.
Come 2019-20, they can run Cossa with an experienced number one that will either be Scott or Myskiw.
As I said, the move between the crease was expected. What most people weren’t expecting was the second trade of the day which saw Brett Kemp go to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for Josh Williams.
It was surprising in the sense that the team moved on from their second-leading scorer, but the more I thought about this deal, the more it made sense to me.
While they lost a very productive player in Kemp, the player they got, Josh Williams, has a much higher ceiling. The 17-year-old is a year younger than Kemp, so he lines up a little bit better with this teams young core and their targeted championship window.
“He’s got a great shot. He’s had some ups and downs this year but he’s had a long year. He was in Russia over the summertime, he went to camps, and he went to the Hlinka. It’s his draft year, there’s a lot of pressure on him but the change of scenery might spark something.” said Head Coach Brad Lauer, comparing what Williams has been going through to what Matt Robertson has had to endure this season.
He only posted 21 points in his first 41 games of the season with the Tigers, but I’m excited what he can do on the teams’ top line with Trey Fix-Wolansky, where he’s spent his first few games. He’s a natural goal scorer and he put that on display this past summer at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, scoring five goals in five games.
There’s a good chance that Williams hears his name called in the first three rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
ON THE ICE
As I’ve been saying all season in these updates, it’s been an up and down season for the Oil Kings. This past weekend was a peak for them. In fact, this might be their most impressive stretch of hockey when you consider the circumstances.
On Friday, the team was staring down a stretch of three games in, with two of those games against the Lethbridge Hurricanes who at that point were sitting atop the Central Division. Its a daunting task at the best of times, add on the fact that the first two games were on the road and that the team was missing three of their best players in Matt Robertson, Quinn Benjafield, and Jake Neighbours. No one would have been too tough on the Oil Kings if they dropped a pair of these games.
They started the weekend off with a 5-1 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. What impressed me about this win was that they scored five goals and Trey Fix-Wolansky didn’t factor into a single one. The teams secondary scoring has really been coming through as of late.
“The injuries kind of showed us what we can do. We weren’t just relying on Trey’s line to create offence. What the injuries did what show our depth of scoring. We’re getting scoring from everyone in the lineup and if you want to win in this league you need that.” said Head Coach Brad Lauer.
Next up was a matchup against Brett Kemp and the Medicine Hat Tigers and once again, the Oil Kings came away with a win. Edmonton outshot the Tigers 34-21 and eventually got the win in overtime thanks to Vince Loschiavo, who play-by-play voice Andrew Peard has dubbed “Big Game Vinny”.
Dylan Myskiw also made 20 saves for the win. Both goalies were very good this weekend. Part of me wonders if the closure of the three-goalie system has given them a little more confidence.
They concluded the weekend “three-in-three” with another game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, this time on home ice. Despite both teams looking sluggish, the Oil Kings looked like a much better team. They got off to a two-goal lead in the first period with Liam Keeler scoring both of those goals. It was actually the first time Keeler has ever scored twice in a WHL game. He’s been working his tail off all year and it was nice to see him get rewarded.
His play has been noticed by more than just myself. Captain Trey-Fix Wolansky had some high praise of the young forward.
“He’s been unreal this year. He’s a great two-way player. He contributes offensively and he does a great job in the defensive zone. Very happy to see him score those two goals.” said the Oil Kings Captain.
They’d add another goal in the second and one more in the third. 4-1 the final as the Oil Kings grab all six points available to them and also move into the top spot in the Central Division.
The Oil Kings have historically struggled in three-in-threes. In fact, before this season they hadn’t swept one since 2014. As Andrew Peard pointed out to me, they have done exactly that twice already this season and hold a record of 8-0-0-1 throughout their three different sets of three-in-threes. (Say that three times fast why won’t ya?).
Every single one of those wins with the exception of one (against Saskatoon) have been against Central Division opponents. That’s a big reason why they sit alone atop their division.
It’s been an impressive stretch of hockey and honestly, the Oil Kings should only get better as they get healthier. This team is going to make some noise down the stretch.