Prior to the Pandemic
The Oil Kings looked to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference as the 2020 post-season drew near. Not only did they have a good mix of youth and experience on their roster, but they were getting contributions from all over the lineup, which would have made them a challenge for any team they matched up against.
Simply put, the Oil Kings were the class of the Central Division with a dominant 20-2-1 mark on their way to their third straight division crown, which marks the second time they’ve done that in team history as they matched the run from 2012 to 2014.
The shortened season makes it hard to judge their stature among other top clubs in the WHL’s history, but this team certainly made its impact felt.
Their .891 point percentage was higher than the .868 mark posted by the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings team that won the WHL title and their 1.78 goals against per game average was second only to the 1.73 average that the 2003-04 Kelowna Rockets put together on their way to the Memorial Cup.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s goals scored per game average of 4.52 was just ahead of the 2018-19 Prince Albert Raiders and matched what the 2017-18 Moose Jaw Warriors did in the regular season. It’s still nowhere near the 4.90 and 4.86 averages that the Regina Pats and Medicine Hat Tigers had in 2016-17, but the stories of those two clubs will be written about another day.
- Scott Atkinson (6-3-9 in 13 games – Committed to the UBC Thunderbirds for next season)
- Kaid Oliver (11-14-25 in 23 games)
- Liam Keeler (3-9-12 in 19 games – Traded to the Red Deer Rebels)
- Carter Souch (6-21-27 in 22 games)
- Janis Svanenbergs (Signed 2020 Import Draft Pick – 4-4-8 in 36 games for Dinamo Riga in KHL)
- Josh Williams (17-13-30 in 22 games)
- Tyler Horstmann (2-1-3 in 17 games)
- Brendan Kuny (0-1-1 in 15 games)
- Jalen Luypen (16-13-29 in 23 games)
- Jake Neighbours (9-24-33 in 19 games – St. Louis Blues Prospect)
- Riley Stuart (Tri-City’s unsigned 5th round pick in 2017 – 5-14-19 in 52 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints – Committed to the Arizona State Sun Devils)
- Jaxsen Wiebe (Acquired from the Red Deer Rebels – 1-2-3 in 21 games)
- Dylan Guenther (12-12-24 in 12 games)
- Jayden Henderson (1-1-2 in 17 games)
- Carson Latimer (5-11-16 in 22 games)
- Caleb Reimer (3-2-5 in 19 games)
- Shea Van Olm (0-0-0 in 9 games)
- Dawson Seitz (0-0-0 in 4 games)
The addition of Kaid Oliver from the Victoria Royals proved to be a big one as the Oil Kings had to replace graduating leading scorer Riley Sawchuk.
The overager joined a line with potential top five NHL Draft pick Dylan Guenther and St. Louis Blues first rounder Jake Neighbours, which quickly became the most exciting line in the WHL before Guenther’s departure to the World Under-18’s with Team Canada.
In addition to the big three, veterans Jalen Luypen, Josh Williams and Carter Souch enjoyed excellent seasons as key parts of the Oil Kings attack, while Carson Latimer quietly put together a 16-point rookie campaign and gained some buzz for July’s draft.
- Ethan Cap (3-12-15 in 22 games)
- Simon Kubicek (1-2-3 in 21 games for Motor Ceske Budejovice in Czech Republic – 7-20-27 in 52 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2019-20)
- Matthew Robertson (4-18-22 in 22 games – New York Rangers Prospect)
- Logan Dowhaniuk (5-14-19 in 23 games)
- Carson Golder (Acquired from the Victoria Royals – 2-1-3 in 15 games for the Trail Smoke Eaters – 0-2-2 in 50 games for the Royals in 2019-20)
- Blake Heward (0-3-3 in 20 games)
- Ethan Peters (1-4-5 in 23 games)
- Keegan Slaney (0-3-3 in 20 games)
- Matt Smith (0-1-1 in 9 games)
- Ross Stanley (0-1-1 in 18 games)
Ethan Cap may not have been somehow people thought of right away when it came to WHL blueliners, but the 21-year-old from North Vancouver was an absolute workhorse for the Oil Kings during his 287 regular season games. A career season was in the making for him if this had been a full campaign and the overager will be a tough player to try and replace in the coming years.
That same line can also be said about New York Rangers blueline prospect Matthew Robertson, who averaged a point per game in his fourth season with the Oil Kings and will surely earn a pro shot this fall. A blueline system with him and Braden Schneider is a pretty darn good one and hopefully they can be a pairing at some point in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Logan Dowhaniuk enjoyed his best year to date with the Oil Kings as he surpassed his previous season-high point total of 12 in nearly a third of the contests. With Robertson and Cap both moving on, Dowhaniuk should be the leader for the team’s defence going forward.
- Sebastian Cossa (17-1-1 with a 1.57 GAA, a .941 save percentage and four shutouts)
- Colby Knight (3-1-0 with a 2.25 GAA, an .885 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Kolby Hay (3rd round pick in 2019 – 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA, a .965 save percentage and zero shutouts for the Northern Alberta Xtreme Under-18 Prep Team – 6-10-0 with a 3.47 GAA, an .897 save percentage and zero shutouts for the Yale Hockey Academy Prep team in 2019-20)
With Beck Warm aging out of the league last spring, Sebastian Cossa officially took the reigns as the starter for the Oil Kings. All he did was post a 1.57 goals against average and a .941 save percentage, win 17 games, shutout four opponents and is battling it out with Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt to be a first round pick at next month’s draft. It will be hard to match those numbers next year, but the Fort McMurray product will probably be in the mix for Canada’s starting job at the World Juniors.
Although he only played in four games, Colby Knight earned a trio of wins in facing the other Alberta clubs. He should earn the backup job this fall and will probably be the starter once Cossa turns pro.
Barring a challenge from the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Oil Kings should capture a fourth straight division title next spring and are the early favourites to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup. While they will lose Robertson, Cap, Oliver and Scott Atkinson, in addition to the recently traded Liam Keeler, the big guns are expected to return and will be eager to win a league title after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the last two playoffs.
While the Brandon Wheat Kings, Winnipeg Ice and Saskatoon Blades will be joining the Tigers as Eastern Conference contenders who will try to stop the Oil Kings from hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup, in addition to strong Western Conference challengers in the Portland Winterhawks, Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds, Edmonton will be able to match those foes with a lot of draft capital that can be used to build up the roster.
They currently own their first and fourth round picks for December’s WHL Prospect Draft, in addition to Kelowna’s first (from the Conner McDonald trade in Dec. 2019), Medicine Hat’s fourth (from the Parker Gavlas trade in Sept. 2019) and Victoria’s fifth (from the Will Warm trade in June 2019). They also have their first, second, third and fifth round picks in 2022 and an abundance of selections for the following two years. If they need to land a big piece to strength an already talented roster, the Oil Kings can do that.