Crowned an Oil King

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

To local product Bretton Stamler it came as a surprise.

The 20-year-old defenceman was left unprotected by the Seattle Thunderbirds in yesterday's WHL expansion draft and promptly scooped up by the Edmonton Oil Kings.

"I didn't expect it," Stamler said.

"I think there are some mixed emotions there. For me going forward I'm going to definitely have to talk to my family and my agent and just talk about my options.

"It's definitely something that I'll have to really think about because it's my last year of junior and obviously it might be my last opportunity to earn a pro contract."

Stamler had spent the past four seasons with the Thunderbirds. This past year the Beaumont native had eight goals and 24 assists in 72 regular-season games.

He added an assist in 11 playoff games as the Thunderbirds lost to the Vancouver Giants in the second round.

"He's a very good kid," said Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell.

"He's a very smart guy, really keen and into the game. He started with us as a 16 year-old and played a bigger role every year and was a really good player for us."

Stamler was the Detroit Red Wings seventh pick - 214th overall - in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

However he did not sign with the Wings which has left his professional career in limbo.

"Not signing with Detroit does put a bit of urgency into the season coming up," Stamler said. "I definitely want to be in the best situation to earn a contract. It's always nice to be wanted by someone, but I found out this afternoon and it's tough to say how I feel because it's a big change for me."

Stamler grew up in Beaumont, but now lives in Edmonton.

At six-foot-one, 202 pounds, he's the type of physical, character player the Oil Kings were looking for in the expansion draft.

Having been a part of their organization for so long, it was a tough decision for the Thunderbirds to leave Stamler unprotected in the draft.

Especially considering they knew the Oil Kings would most likely take him.

"We were a little bit influenced when we put our list together by what we have coming up here," Farwell said.

"We were looking at protecting a higher percentage of younger guys. But he's a proven guy and he'll be the anchor for them. I don't know who else they've taken, but character-wise, he'll be one of the guys in that leadership group."

Prior to going to Seattle, Stamler played his midget hockey in Sherwood Park. He also graduated high school a year earlier than most, having been moved up a grade in elementary.

"He couldn't be a better fit for that team," Farwell said. "He has great character, he's a good skater, he's a real physical guy and plays hard all the time."

Despite not having made a decision on his future, Stamler knows there would be benefits to playing his final year of junior hockey in Edmonton.

"I think the big thing is that the Oil Kings are affiliated with an NHL hockey team and therefore I know it would be run very well and very professionally," Stamler said.

"I think that's key for any player looking to play hockey for a career.

"I know they have good management at this point. Bob Green did a very good job in Medicine Hat and anybody coming from that organization would know what they're talking about."


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