Spotlight on Stamler

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:57 AM ET

At first, Bretton Stamler wasn't sure of playing his final year of junior hockey with an expansion team.

Then he began to consider the perks of suiting up with the Edmonton Oil Kings.

For an aspiring professional, it's the perfect fit.

"Definitely, being in Edmonton is big," Stamler said yesterday.

"There'll be a lot more attention, a lot more exposure than there was in Seattle. It's just a hockey market and Seattle was not a hockey market at all."

There's a good possibility Stamler will be the Oil Kings first captain when the puck drops on their inaugural season.

The Beaumont native was selected by the club in the WHL Expansion Draft after being left unprotected by the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Yesterday he and the rest of the hopefuls took to the ice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park for the first day of training camp.

"I was a little bit surprised he was left unprotected," said Oil Kings general manager Bob Green.

"But Seattle was in pretty good shape as far as their 20-year-olds were concerned. Sometimes teams just have too many.

"It was good for us and it was probably a good situation for Bretton as well. This gives him a chance to have a fresh start and make that final push to try and play at the professional level."

Moving home has already paid dividends for Stamler.

Shortly after becoming property of the Oil Kings, the six-foot-one, 207-pound defenceman was offered a free-agent tryout with the Edmonton Oilers and will attend the parent club's rookie camp in the Northwest Territories.

The Oil Kings hope to have him back by the time they open the regular season Sept. 20 against the Kootenay Ice.

"It was a nice surprise," Stamler said. "I was hoping to get a tryout somewhere, I never really expected to get one from Edmonton. But it was really nice, especially now that I'm playing with the Oil Kings."

A four-year WHL veteran, Stamler is the most experienced player on the Oil Kings roster. Last season he scored eight goals and added 24 assists playing all 72 regular-season.

In his four years with the Thunderbirds, Stamler amassed 17 goals and 52 assists in 261 regular-season games.

"He's a guy that competes hard and knows what it takes to win," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau. "I thought that Seattle team down the stretch was as good as any team in the league last year.

"He can play a lot of minutes which is what we need. He can play in all situations, power-play, penalty-kill, five-on-five against other teams' top units. A lot is expected out of Bretton and I think he's ready to handle it."

Stamler was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round (214th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but was never offered a contract. He went back into the NHL draft this year but was passed over.

"He's a solid player at both ends of the rink and can be a physical presence," Green said. "He plays with a lot of intensity, he's a focused kid and I think he'll teach the younger kids how to prepare for games and how to prepare for practice.

"He's really worked hard this summer and made the commitment to become a better player."


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