Oil Kings starting from scratch

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

For all of them, it’s the first chance to impress.

With a new coaching staff, every player on the Edmonton Oil Kings roster is essentially starting with a clean slate — which is a good thing, considering their struggles last season.

“That’s what happens when new coaches come in, you have to impress them,” said Oil Kings veteran Cameron Abney.

“They don’t know who you are, so everyone has to put on a good show and play good hockey.”

On Saturday, the Oil Kings got their first opportunity to show the new coaches what they were capable of, as they faced off against the Swift Current Broncos at an invitational pre-season tournament at Servus Place in St. Albert.

The tournament, which also features the Medicine Hat Tigers and Prince George Cougars, wraps up today.

“We’re looking forward to the weekend and this week,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal.

“Everybody is going to get at least one game and it’ll give us a better feel of where we are and where we need to get to, heading toward the regular season. These games are going to be a testing ground to see where we have to get to.

“We were very happy with training camp; our compete level was very high and we got a chance to see some of the young players.”

Following their invitational tournament, the Oil Kings will head to Prince George for a pair of games against the Cougars next weekend before rounding out their exhibition schedule in Red Deer against the Rebels on Sept. 17.

They’ll open the regular season Sept. 24, hosting the Rebels at Rexall Place.

“We’re going to be evaluating while we’re teaching, because we have to see what we have to work with,” Laxdal said.

“We have systems that we want to put in place, but we can’t put the systems in place or look to develop a style of play until we see what kind of players we have.

“We got a good feel in training camp. We’ve got a good young, mobile defence and forwards that can skate very well, so we feel we can be an up-tempo type of team.

“But again, we want to see these guys being challenged, not just by what they did in training camp, but by playing against other teams.”

Having won just 16 games last season, the Oil Kings are heading into the season with a younger, revamped squad supported by a handful of veterans.

A lot of that youth will be on display during the exhibition season as the club tries to identify which ones will be able to make the jump to the WHL level.

“We have three overagers and a couple of 19-year-olds and after that we’re pretty young,” Laxdal said.

“We don’t have a lot of 18- year-olds in the mix. So right now, it’s going to be a work in progress.”

Not being familiar with any players on the squad, the coaching staff will also be looking to identify their leadership group.

“We have some pretty good leaders in our overagers and even some of our younger guys are pretty good leaders,” Laxdal said.

“From what I’ve seen at training camp, there is a lot of potential there and we need that to be successful on the ice.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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