Hometown hopeful has impressed Oil Kings

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

When Karl Benke got a phone call from the B.C. Hockey League's Nanaimo Clippers a few weeks ago, wondering where he was, he told them he wasn't coming to camp, he was staying home.

The six-foot-six, 215-pound local product is looking to make an impression on the Edmonton Oil Kings and get back into the Western Hockey League.

"I told them, 'I thought you got the word I was going to Edmonton,' " Benke said yesterday as the team continues training camp at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.

"Something just didn't feel right there (Nanaimo) and I really want to get back playing in the WHL and this is a big opportunity for me."

So far, so good for the rugged 19-year-old blue-liner who spent parts of three seasons with the Swift Current Broncos before joining the Clippers. He has impressed the Oil Kings brass with his physical demeanour and his willingness to stick up for his teammates.

Pretty good for a player who was a late invite to camp.

"He's surprised me. When you see a guy that big, you think right away that he can't skate, but his skating is very good," said Oil Kings assistant coach Rocky Thompson.

"He's a big kid who plays physical and he likes to drop the gloves and he's been asking me a lot of things about fighting and I think I can show him a few things," said Thompson, who accumulated 2,036 penalty minutes in his 591 professional games.

Benke made his big impression during the Oil Kings second game of their inaugural pre-season tournament against the Kamloops Blazers. He absolutely crushed Blazers rookie Shane Wiebe with a thunderous open ice hit, then got jumped by Blazers forward Sasha Golin.

"I feel in the games I have played in I have been able to expose my strengths," said Benke.

"I love to play physical and I enjoy dropping the gloves. I have to be a physical presence to be effective. I am not an offensive guy, I just try to be strong in my own end."

In his three seasons in Swift Current, Benke only dressed for a total of 66 games, that's less than one full WHL season. He tallied just two assists during his time with the Broncos.

"This whole experience has really been humbling and I really feel I can play at this level. I really worked on my skating and I can play in the new style of game," Benke said.

After he didn't report to Nanaimo, the Clippers traded his rights to the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Grande Prairie Storm.

"My priority and my number one goal is to make the Oil Kings, hopefully if I continue to do well I won't be going to Grande Prairie."

The Oil Kings will finally make their first appearance at Rexall Place today when they hold a practice at 3 p.m.


Videos

Photos