Photo Credit: Edmonton Oil Kings

Oil Kings grab two more wins, sit tied for division lead

After a successful road trip that saw the team grab eight of a potential ten points during their time in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Edmonton Oil Kings returned home for a pair of Thanksgiving weekend games.

They took to the ice on Friday night against one of their provincial rivals, the Calgary Hitmen. Despite going down 2-0 early, they managed to claw back into the game thanks to four powerplay goals in the second period.

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In the final frame, they got a pair of goals from Carter Souch, who completed his first career WHL hat-trick, and completed a 6-4 victory over the Hitmen.

On Sunday, they hosted the Portland Winterhawks in a rematch of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 WHL Finals (damn, those were some dominant clubs) and the Oil Kings once again managed to grab two points. While the game against the Hitmen was a complete shootout, the matchup against the Winterhawks featured a tremendous goaltending battle.

Oil Kings rookie Sebastien Cossa was tremendous, stopping 26 shots during regulation time, six during overtime, and another all three Portland shootout attempts. He is three games into his WHL career and has looked absolutely fantastic in every single outing. The organization is very high on him and right now, his 0.952 save percentage and 1.66 GAA are making them look very smart.

On the other side in the win over Portland, Joel Hoffer was tremendous, stopping 39 of the 40 shots Edmonton directed at him and the only player that beat him in the shootout was the red-hot Carter Souch.

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One common criticism of this year’s Oil Kings team is that they’ve been giving up too many scoring chances. Not just shots on goal, but many quality looks. That seems to slowly be getting better and that’s a really positive sign.

Heading into the season, I was also concerned about the team’s powerplay. Last year, they finished seventh in the league but that was with the likes of Trey Fix-Wolansky, Quinn Benjafield, and Vince Loschiavo running the top unit. 

It’s a much different look this season but things are starting to come around and the four-goal performance by their powerplay last Friday could be a spark that keeps them going all season. They went a total of 4/10 over the weekend and now sit seventh in the league.

It’s not being pushed by a fully loaded top unit like it was at times last season. Instead, it’s been the depth that has been the driving force. They have nine players with a powerplay goal but don’t have a single player with two. Much like at even strength, this is a team that looks much more balanced than it did 12 months ago.

Another great sign early in the season has been the play of Carter Souch. After his hat-trick over the weekend, he’s now up to five goals and three assists on the season, which puts him in a tie for first in goals on the team and tied for fifth in points.

Statistically, he was very good last season. He finished fifth in team scoring with 45 points in 68 games. However, he struggled at some points and was taken out of the lineup for a handful of games during the team’s playoff run. He took some really positive strides last season and if his play so far is any indication of things to come, we could see Souch turn into a high-end offensive producer this season. He’s always had good offensive instincts but he’s also grown a good amount since he came into the league and now I feel like he’s really starting to use his size as an advantage.

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Right now, he’s red hot and so is the entire team. They’ve grabbed points in seven straight games and currently have the second-best winning percentage in the WHL. At the beginning of the season, I heard that this wasn’t the year that the club was planning on going ‘all in’ and making some trades that maybe mortgage a bit of the future to try push for a championship. I heard that next year was potentially when that would happen.

Now that they’re off to this strong of a start, I wonder if that changes a little bit for GM Kirt Hill. I still feel like they would benefit from another impact forward and if they could make a deal for a high-end 19-year-old forward, how much would they be willing to give up? Definitely food for thought as the Oil Kings continue to rack up wins.