Rocks on blue-line

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Their experience is invaluable.

Blueliners Bretton Stamler, Matt Swaby and Michael Hengen have a combined 11 years of WHL seasoning under their belts - something very valuable for the first year franchise.

"Between the three of us, we have over 500 games of WHL experience," said Hengen yesterday prior to the Oil Kings' last practice before they open up their season tonight against the Kootenay Ice.

"We've been through some ups and downs in this league as players and with the teams we played on. That will be important for us to make it easier on the younger guys," he said.

THERE TO HELP

"The three of us have been there to help them when they are eager to ask questions, but there have been times when we just have to sit back and let them learn on their own."

Karey Pieper and Alex Archibald make up the rest of the Oil Kings overage contingent, that will, in some form or another, leave a mark on this franchise.

"I think they will definitely have an impact on our young guys, especially off the ice. They'll see how these guys portray themselves off the ice and how hard they work out," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau.

"We want them to be leaders and they are all quality players that will bring a lot to this team on and off the ice."

The pressure and expectations coming from the Oil Kings' three most experienced blueliners will be something they all take to heart.

This is their final year of major junior and they want to use it to propel them further into hockey.

"We have all been leaders on our previous teams and that is the biggest thing we need to bring to the team here in Edmonton," said Swaby.

"As 20-year-olds we have to set the bar every night and show these young guys how hard you have to work each and every night."

Stamler, who quietly was named the first ever Oil Kings captain earlier this week will bring strong leadership skills and will be a big key on special teams.

All three veterans bring different attributes to the Oil Kings blue-line.

Stamler is a physical presence and looks to be the Oil Kings' most prominent two-way defenceman.

Swaby had a solid offensive season last year with Tri-City, where he registered 20 points, but he's more of a stay at home defenceman.

Hengen will be the team's powerplay quarterback.

"All three of us bring different things to the table," said Stamler. "Hengen should be a key to our powerplay. Swaby is a great shot blocker who is strong in his own end and I am kind of the guy in the middle.

"That has been what we've excelled at in the past, but I think this year we'll be counted on to do a lot more.," he added.

Hengen is excited to start this season off with a bang.

BREAKOUT SEASON

After toiling with four different teams in four seasons, he finally enjoyed a breakout season last year with the Calgary Hitmen and Moose Jaw Warriors.

"My first few years in the league were rough and I was never really able to have the type of year I wanted until last year," said Hengen.

"I have come into this season with a lot of confidence and with the way our defence is assembled, we'll be able to help out our young forwards and take the pressure off them when they need it."


Photos