This is an ongoing series as we start the long road to the 2019-20 WHL season. We will be going in the order that teams were eliminated from contention. Keep in mind that the roster guesses vary because of information made available to us. We did our very best to capture all of the signings but could be missing some. We are now finishing up with the conference finalists. This will be it for off-season outlook reports until either Vancouver or Prince Albert is eliminated.
2018-19 WHL Season: From worst in the entire WHL, all the way to first in the Central Division. That was how much the Edmonton Oil Kings improved under new general manager Kirt Hill and head coach Brad Lauer.
It was a 40 point improvement and was not something anyone saw coming. Edmonton had one proven playmaker in Trey Fix-Wolansky and there was not supposed to be much around him.
To be fair, he did carry the load, en route to an Eastern Conference MVP award. However, overage acquisitions Vince Loschiavo and Quinn Benjafield were better than expected and they were number two and three in team scoring.
Conner McDonald was a masterful power play quarterback and he chipped in 50 points from the blue line.
Edmonton brought in Dylan Myskiw prior to the season starting as well and he ended up taking the starting job from Boston Bilous and the injured Todd Scott.
Myskiw posted a 2.53 GAA and 0.914 save percentage.
Edmonton’s inexperienced group faltered a bit when facing Medicine Hat goalie Mads Sogaard in the first round, falling behind in the series 2-1. Once they found their footing though they were lethal.
The Oil Kings rolled out three straight against Medicine Hat and then won twice in OT in round two, sweeping the Calgary Hitmen 4-0 and advancing to their first conference final since 2014.
They seemed to be up to the task against the Scott Munro trophy winning Prince Albert Raiders, stealing a game there in overtime thanks to rookie sensation Jake Neighbours‘ second OT winner in the playoffs.
Going back to Edmonton, they handled the Raiders in Game 3, taking a 2-1 series lead. Then the wheels fell off a bit as Prince Albert buckled down and won three straight, outscoring them 10-3.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: The Oil Kings selected nine players. They took five forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. With their top pick, they took forward Caleb Reimer (18th overall) out of the Delta Hockey Academy.
Signed Players (32):
1999 – Trey Fix-Wolansky~@, Zach Russell
2000 – Andrei Pavlenko, Scott Atkinson, David Kope, Logan Moon*
2001 – Liam Keeler, Vladimir Alistrov, Josh Williams, Carter Souch
2002 – Jake Neighbours, Jalen Luypen, Tyler Horstmann*, Raphael Pelletier
2003 – Dylan Guenther*, Kobe Verbicky*, Carson Latimer*
1999 – Will Warm, Conner McDonald, Parker Gavlas
2000 – Wyatt McLeod, Ethan Cap
2001 – Jacson Alexander, Matthew Robertson, Aidan Lawson, Jayden Platz*
2002 – Logan Dowhaniuk*
2003 – Keagan Slaney*, Matt Smith*
1999 – Dylan Myskiw
2000 – Todd Scott
2002 – Sebastian Cossa
Aged Out: Loschiavo, Benjafield and Andrew Fyten will be missed off the forward group as they all move on.
Going Pro: As big as those three were for the team, Fix-Wolansky was the heart and soul. Anytime there was a big play to be made, he was usually involved. Columbus noticed and signed him to an entry-level contract. He will likely be plying his trade in the AHL next season.
Overage Shuffle: McDonald has been a mainstay on the blue line since being acquired from Kamloops. He should be able to take one of the three overage spots. Will Warm and Parker Gavlas were solid for Edmonton on the back end, especially in the playoffs, but there isn’t a lot of room at the inn.
Zach Russell up front will be hard pressed to get an overage spot, since one is likely going to the goalie that got them to the conference final, Myskiw.
Edmonton may get a nice offer for Myskiw though and decide to go with the younger Scott, but on a team that looks like a Central Division contender, you would have to think they go with the more proven big-game goalie.
Import Issues?: Andrei Pavlenko and Vladimir Alistrov were so good in 2018-19 and their added scoring was a reason Edmonton found some scoring depth later in the season. I would be surprised to not see them come back next season.
2019 NHL Draft: Matthew Robertson is expected to be a late first round or early second round pick. He came in at 26th among North American skaters in the final rankings by NHL Central Scouting. Alistrov (118), Josh Williams (145) and David Kope (202) were all ranked as well.