For the Edmonton Oil Kings, it starts in their end.
Heading into the season, the Western Hockey League club will be counting on their ability on the blue line.
With young, unproven talent up front, they’ll be relying heavily on what is shaping up to be a strong defensive corps.
“We’re young and as the season goes along, we’re going to get stronger and stronger,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “We were just saying in the dressing room that Griffin Reinhart doesn’t know how good he could be.
“He’s an unbelievable player and the strength of our hockey club is in our defence. But it’s going to be a work in progress, we’ve seen some good things, but there are some others things that have been a bit sloppy. But those are things we can work on and we got the defence that we can work on with it.”
Reinhart, 16, was selected third overall by the Oil Kings in the 2009 WHL bantam draft. He’ll join a strong blue line unit, anchored by Buffalo Sabres first-round pick Mark Pysyk.
“Hopefully our defence will be one of the strengths of our team,” said Pysyk. “We have a solid group of kids coming up this year and a good group of veterans. I think we’ll have a pretty solid D-core.”
Heading into his third season, Pysyk is expected to log a heavy amount of ice time on the blue line this season.
Expectations have always been high on the Sherwood Park native, who was the Oil Kings first-ever selection in the WHL Bantam Draft three years ago.
“It’s a lot different this year then the last couple of years coming in,” Pysyk said. “You come in, looking up to the guys that had been here for a couple of years, and now I’m the guy that’s been here for a couple of years.
“I’m looking forward to the season, I think it’s going to be a good year.”