The Calgary Hitmen headed into the week coming off their fourth straight victory of the season. Despite missing two top offensive players in Carson Focht and James Malm to undisclosed injuries, Calgary received depth contribution to pick up the two points at home against a young but skilled Portland Winterhawks team. A timeline has yet to be determined for both Focht and Malm regarding possible return dates.
Without a regulation loss this season, the Hitmen currently sit in third in the Central Division. Calgary remains behind Edmonton and Medicine Hat with three games in hand on the Tigers and four in hand on the Oil Kings. The Hitmen will travel to Edmonton to battle the Oil Kings this Saturday to resume the fierce rivalry between the two. Edmonton has a 1-1-0 record at Rogers Place, while Calgary has picked up three of four possible points on the road with the season opening overtime loss to Swift Current.
The two teams have met once already this regular season in what turned out to be a heated and tightly contested game. After a back and forth first that saw Edmonton take a 2-0 lead, the tone of the game was drastically changed when, almost midway through the second, David Kope drilled Riley Fiddler-Schultz from behind. This eventually turned into a misconduct and two-game suspension for Kope as well as a much rougher remainder of the game. However, this came to be the spark that Calgary needed to get going offensively. The Hitmen eventually took the game in overtime as Carson Focht (2g,1a), and James Malm (1g,2a) both played terrific and chipped in on the overtime winner. Surely, Calgary will hope to have these two back in the lineup, and considering Carson Focht was a game time decision on October 6th, it seems very likely he will play.
There are certainly Oil Kings who have been hot as of late including Belarusian import Vladimir Alistrov. The powerful left winger has collected four goals and two helpers in Edmonton’s last six contests, along with a plus-five rating. Edmonton’s first line of Jake Neighbours, Josh Williams, and Riley Sawchuk has also been excellent so far this season with a combined 31 points through 9 games. On the other hand, Egor Zamula has been an unstoppable force in all situations for the Hitmen, especially on the power play. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect is currently riding a five-game point streak with two power-play markers and one even strength goal while adding four assists.
A new challenge for the Oil Kings this Saturday will be shutting down overage captain and Ottawa Senators draft pick Mark Kastelic. Kastelic was on a professional tryout when the two clubs met last and is a major difference maker as a first line centre who starts nearly every power play and penalty kill. Kastelic had an assist in his season debut but couldn’t buy a goal, despite having several quality chances.
Lastly, the Calgary power play will likely be a main focus for the Oil Kings as the Hitmen have capitalized on 33.3% of all man advantages, leading all WHL clubs. Edmonton’s penalty kill should be a good match for the Calgary power play, as the Oil Kings have killed off 34 of 39 penalties this season.
- Earlier this week 2001 born goaltender Jack McNaughton and 2002 born right handed defenseman Luke Prokop were both ranked as B level prospects for the upcoming NHL draft. Only 12 other WHLers received B level grades.
- Calgary ranked #5 in this week’s edition of the Kia CHL Top 10, while Prince Albert and Edmonton also made the top 10 at six and nine. Moose Jaw also received an honourable mention.