Oil Kings choose a defenceman

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Mark Pysyk feels he can handle the pressure.

In fact the Sherwood Park product is looking forward to meeting and exceeding the expectations that come with being the Edmonton Oil Kings first pick in the WHL Bantam Draft yesterday.

"Last year as a rookie in Bantam AAA, my coach showed quite a bit of confidence in me and put me out there in some key situations," Pysyk said.

"There's always pressure, but I feel I can handle it pretty well."

Pysyk, 15, was selected in the first round - third overall - by the Oil Kings.

The defenceman who scored 15 goals and added 34 assists in 33 games with the Strathcona Bantam AAA Warriors this past season, was the first pick in franchise history.

The expansion team begins play in the Western Hockey League this fall.

"I knew they were interested in me because they had talked to me before the draft," Pysyk said. "Portland also talked to me, but I wasn't too worried about getting taken by them. I was pretty sure Portland wasn't going to pick me. I'm glad it all worked out in the end."

The Portland Winter Hawks had the first pick in yesterday's draft. They passed on the local defenceman. So did the Kelowna Rockets who had the second pick.

"It's pretty cool being the first person drafted by a team," Pysyk said. "It's also good that I get a chance to play at home in a city I know, with my family and friends all here."

In Pysyk, the Oil Kings hope to have a player they can build around.

Although it's hard to project the type of player he'll develop into in two to three years, the Oil Kings expect Pysyk to be a top two defenceman.

"He's got good offensive skills," said Oil Kings general manager Bob Green prior to the draft. "He did a good job running his team's powerplay this year, he's got a good shot from the point.

"He's also good defensively. He's pretty effective in all situations."

After Pysyk, the Oil Kings used their next three selections on centres. They picked T.J. Foster from Slave Lake, Colton Stephenson from Saskatoon and Devin Balness out of Beausejour, Man.

All the players selected by the Oil Kings yesterday - including Pysyk - are not eligible to play in the league until the 2008-2009 season.

The bulk of the Oil Kings roster for their inaugural season will come from the WHL expansion draft in June.

They can also add players to their roster by trade and through essentially a free agent route. As an expansion team, the Oil Kings will also be able to dress five overage players in their inaugural season - two more than the other teams in the league.


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