The Oil Kings got their season underway 11 days ago, but since this is my first weekly recap, I’m digging back to game one to give you a full sense of how things have been going thus far.
Coming off a 2016-17 season that saw them finish 19th in the league, the Oil Kings were down in Red Deer kick things off and things didn’t exactly start well. The Rebels scored the first four goals of the opening game and it was a hole that Edmonton couldn’t climb out of. Not only did they lose the game 7-3, they were also outshot 43-34 and they were a dismal 32.4% in the faceoff circle, both of those became common themes through the first five games.
One positive that I found in this one was the play of 17-year-old rookie Andrei Pavlenko. I thought he gelled well with Trey Fix-Wolansky and his solid play was rewarded as he scored twice in his regular season debut.
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The first game of the year may have served as a rude reminder of some of the growing pains this team may be experiencing throughout the year.
However, less than 24 hours later, the Oil Kings had a shot at redemption when the Rebels travelled to Rogers Place. While it was a better effort from the Oil Kings, the result was the same. They were up 2-0 just five minutes into this one thanks to goals by Trey Fix-Wolansky and Kobe Mohr, who finished the game with two tallies.
They held a 3-2 lead heading into the third period but simply couldn’t fight off an onslaught from the Rebels. Red Deer outshot Edmonton 11-5 in the final frame and added three goals to complete the sweep of the home and home.
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Once again, they were dominated in the faceoff circle, winning just 28.8% of the draws. They were also outshot 32-21.
Sitting winless through two games, things weren’t getting easier as the Oil Kings were set to begin a three-game in three-night stand, beginning with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday.
Game three was a bright spot as the team’s’ offence came to play and it was beautiful. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead and despite looking sloppy at times, played a good game. For the first time this year they outshot their opponent, posted a respectable faceoff percentage (44%) and it resulted in a 7-6 win over the Hurricanes.
They split the final two games of the weekend, dropping a 4-1 decision down in Lethbridge before knocking off the Kootenay Ice by a score of 4-3.
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THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

Third Star: NICK BOWMAN

He caught my eye during the team’s first win of the year on Friday when he notched two goals. Take away his presence on the scoresheet and I think he’s been one of the better Oil Kings thus far. He plays a physical game and on a young team, I think his style of play is needed on this team.

Second Star: WILL WARM

Fresh off his stint with the Vegas Golden Knights, he’s showing that he can be this teams #1 d-man. He showing he can play at both ends, putting up 5 points in the teams first 5 games. He skates well and can get the puck going up ice, which is a big reason why the team’s offence has been so successful. I see a ton of potential in his game and he got his season off to a great start.
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First Star: TREY FIX-WOLANSKY

7 points in 5 games. Enough said. He’s this team’s leader on offence, but that was expected. He’s just beginning his second full season in the league and I think there’s room for him to continue to get better. He’s looked good so far, but I don’t think this is Fix-Wolansky at his best, which is a great sight for Oil Kings fans.

THE GOOD

  • They’re young and despite a start that has them below .500, I see a lot of potential and I’m excited to watch this group grow throughout the year.
  • Travis Child doesn’t have the best numbers, but I don’t blame him for very many of the goals he’s given up. When you look at a team that’s given up 25 goals through their first five games, you’d think they should be looking for an upgrade between the pipes. I don’t think that’s the case here.
  • This team plays with emotion. They aren’t scared to drop the mitts and it honestly seems like they thrive when there’s some bad blood, the first game against Lethbridge was a great example of this. They play with passion, but Steve Hamilton keeps them in line.
  • He didn’t get one of my three stars, but Andrei Pavlenko was good this week. Has the skill to play on the top line, but isn’t afraid to mix it up physically. He’ll go where it’s necessary to be successful and score goals.
  • They’ve drawn the fourth most penalties in the league. Give yourself power plays and you’ll give yourself a better chance to win games.
  • The whole line of Bowman, Atkinson and Mohr deserves a shoutout. They have been playing some good hockey recently. The depth up front is a huge reason why this team currently sits fourth in the WHL when it comes to goals for with 18 through their first five games.

THE BAD

  • They drew so many power plays, but didn’t score on enough. With a number of chances they have themselves, 21.7% is a number I’d like to see go up. Its respectable, but with some of the skill they have, I want to see more this week.
  • Speaking of special teams, their penalty kill was bad. Like “baaaddddd, bad”. 2nd worst in the league at 60%.
  • I touched on it already, but they gave up far too many shots on goal. Travis Child was being hung out to try on a few occasions. Need to tighten up defensively. I noticed this in the game against Lethbridge, but they really struggled breaking up the oppositions cycle. There were stretches spanning almost a full minute where it seemed like the Oil Kings couldn’t even touch the puck.
  • I’m hoping a lot of these problems are solved with experience, and faceoffs is another one. 37.5% in the circle is borderline embarrassing. If they won more draws, they’d have possession more and it would help them on the shot clock as well.

UP NEXT

Only two games on the schedule this week, and they both feature some high-octane offences. They get going on Friday when the Brandon Wheat Kings (7th in GF) are in town. It’s been a slow start for the Wheat Kings, who’s won just once in their first four games. Like the Oil Kings, the Wheat Kings offence has some potential. They’ve scored eight goals once this season and have a total of 18 through their first 4 games. The battle the two “Kings” goes at 7pm from Rogers.
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They’ll wrap up action this week with a Sunday afternoon affair against the Everett Silvertips (8th in GF). This one could be a high-scoring game as well, Everett currently has three players all averaging over a point per game through their first four games in Patrick Bajkov (9 points), Matt Fonteyne (8 points), and Connor Dewar (6 points). The puck will drop just after 4pm.
These games will also give us the first look at Tomas Soustal, who the team acquired from Kelowna in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Soustal was with the team in 2014-15 when they won the WHL Championship and has appeared in two World Junior tournaments with the Czech Republic. He’s also coming off a season in which he put up 47 points in 49 games.
As a result of the trade, the team also placed Artyom Baltruk on waivers.
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