Oil Kings get out crystal ball

DAVID CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Read the past, watch the present and look to the future.

Drafting bantam-age players into a major junior franchise isn't about what they will look like pulling the team's sweater over their head on draft day, it's what they'll look like two, three years from now.

"The No. 1 word is projection," said Oil Kings assistant GM Randy Hansch, as the team hosts tomorrow's WHL draft - and today's award banquet -heading into the third year of the franchise's reincarnation.

"You're projecting where these players are going to be in their prime, when they are 18, 19 at our level.

"There's a lot of little things that go into it - due diligence on the progression of the player throughout their year, their backgrounds, everything" said Hansch, essentially the link between the scouting and decision ends of the Oil Kings.

"It's about getting the proper reads on the kids and getting the proper information. You combine it together and it comes down to projection."

Now, the homework is all but done. And the report is sitting on the desk of the decider, GM Bob Green.

"We're at the mercy of the eight teams ahead of us," said Green, not unhappy that his team's late-season playoff run took him out of the lottery. "But I think we're pretty comfortable with the names we have."

Both men say that it still comes down to a combination of first-hand knowledge and gut feeling.

"The bulk of your scouting is still done by watching the kids play," said Green. "It boils down to eight months of watching hockey."

Hansch laughingly admits the number of games he and his staff attend is difficult to calculate. "Let's just say we saw plenty!"

Local Flavours ...

Some have St. Albert defenceman Nicholas Walters in sight for the Oil Kings at the No. 9 slot. And there's the intriguing name of Southgate Lions' D-man Dane Phaneuf, younger brother of Dion, likely a mid-first-rounder.

Then there is Phaneuf's teammate Adam Tambellini, son of the Oilers' GM, as well as Sean MacTavish, son of the now ex-Oilers coach, that may come up in later rounds.

But there's no pressure on going local, said Green.

"None whatsoever. Our job here is to build a winning hockey club and you do that with the best players. I think we're still building a depth chart as a young franchise. If the best players are local, then that's great. If they're not, then we'll certainly go elsewhere."

Big D ...

The top end of the draft is D heavy, with some seeing Notre Dame Hounds' puck-mover Morgan Reilly going No. 1 to the Portland Winter Hawks. Reilly was the MVP at January's John Reid Memorial midget tournament in St. Albert. The Moose Jaw Warriors pick second and may go for Vancouver product Griffin Reinhart. Chillwack, Red Deer, Regina, Prince Albert, Prince George and Everett have picks three through eight, before Edmonton makes a call.

Name game ...

Besides Phaneuf, there are also other eligible players with "brand-name" associations. The 6-foot-3 Reinhart is the son of former Calgary Flames star Paul Reinhart. Older brother Max, a centre, is already in the Dub with Kootenay. Henrik Samuelsson, son of former NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Cup winner Ulf, is a U.S. prospect who may come north. The most unique is Texan Seth Jones. He is also the son of a professional athlete - former Toronto Raptor Popeye Jones. So, Seth is likely to grow even taller than this current height of 6-foot-3.

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WHL AWARDS

TODAY AT NORTHLANDS AGRICOM

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Jordan Weal, Regina

Brett Connolly, P. George

Goaltender of the Year

Braden Holtby, Saskatoon

Chet Pickard, Tri-City

DEFENCEMAN OF THE YEAR

Paul Postma, Calgary

Jonathon Blum, Vancouver

MOST SPORTSMANLIKE

Tyler Ennis, Medicine Hat

Colin Long, Kelowna

SCHOLASTIC PLAYER OF YEAR

Stefan Elliott, Saskatoon

Tyler Maxwell, Everett

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lorne Molleken, Saskatoon

Don Hay, Vancouver

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

Kelly Kisio, Calgary

Scott Bonner, Vancouver

REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS

Calgary Hitmen

TOP SCORER

Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vancouver (36-79-115)


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