The Edmonton Oil Kings downed the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-3 on Saturday night to capture a Eastern Conference Championship and advance to the Western Hockey League Championship.
The Oil Kings beat the Prince Albert Raiders, the Brandon Wheat Kings and Medicine Hat to advance to face the Portland Winterhawks for the third-straight year in the championship series.
Games one, two, five and seven will be played in Portland while three, four and six will be played in Edmonton.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Mitchell Moroz is fifth on the team in scoring throughout the playoffs with 13 points (4-9-13) in 14 games.
It is often said that goals allowed at the end of periods are a momentum killer and the Oklahoma City Barons were a victim of two of those in a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Texas Stars, which puts them down 2-0 in the series.
Barons Captain Anton Lander opened the scoring, in game two of the AHL opening round playoff series, when he found Roman Horak for a breakaway opportunity. The Barons leading scorer sunk a shot past goalie Jack Campbell for the 1-0 lead.
The Stars would tie the game in the final minute of the second period on the power play.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Jujhar Khaira gave the Barons a 2-1 lead at 11:57 of the third period.
The celebration was short-lived as AHL MVP Travis Morin scored with 40 seconds remaining in the game to tie it up again.
Brendan Ranford scored the game-winning goal at 15:04 of the overtime period.
Down 2-0 in the best-of-five series, the Oilers affiliate heads to Cedar Park, Texas for a do-or-die game three on Wednesday April 30.
The top defensive prospect in this year’s draft, Aaron Ekblad was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on Friday and he provided his thoughts on another top draft-eligible player, Kingston’s Sam Bennett.
Ekblad and Bennett faced off a few times in the regular season but the game Stauffer was referring to and asked Ekblad about in particular was the Barrie Colts’ 10-6 loss to Kingston on February 20.
Bennett finished the game +4 with three assists while Ekblad went -6 with no points and even got into a fight.
Ekblad had this to say in his short scouting report of Bennett and that game:
“Bennett’s always been one of my good friends,” Ekblad said. “He’s a pretty tenacious player, while being a skilled guy. I think that’s a pretty great combination for him. He’s going to be a great player one day in the NHL and I wish him the best of luck. That game was a pretty hard game to play in. Sometimes you have your nights, sometimes you don’t. That was probably the worst game of the season for myself and the Barrie Colts. It is what it is and I didn’t put much stock into it. Too get too long on a situation like that, it’s not worth it. I think you have to keep an even keel and realize there’s always going to be another game.”
TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button was on Oilers Now with Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Friday and provided some insight on some of the draft’s top prospects. He mentioned several players and their ability to transition to the NHL as well.
“Depending on what a team wants, I don’t think they can go wrong there. You want a defenceman, Aaron Ekblad is a pillar defenceman. Leon Draisaitl is a big-time centreman who can make plays, he makes it hard on opponents and I really do believe that Michael Dal Colle is a big-time winger.”
Button says out of his top-five prospects or so, he believes Aaron Ekblad is the most likely to contribute in the NHL right away.
“I think the guy that’s most capable is Aaron Ekblad because of his on-ice maturity,” Button said. “He’s played three years in junior, he’s very mature physically, which I think is a big part of it. He’s very mature emotionally and mentally. When you watch him play, he carries that maturity onto the ice. He came to the Barrie Colts, which were the worst team in the Ontario Hockey League, as a 15 year-old. They haven’t missed the playoffs since and he’s been a real integral part of their team and I think that Aaron, with the right support around him, no question can play in the National Hockey League next year.”
He also mentioned players like Michael Dal Colle and Leon Draisaitl as having the potential to play this season.
“I do think that Michael Dal Colle is capable at playing in the National Hockey League next year and holding his own. Does that mean he’s going to be incredibly successful like Nathan Mackinnon? No, but I think he can more than hold his own next year.”
“I think Leon Draisaitl can play because or his size and because he can handle the rigours,” Button said. “He’s had two years in the (WHL), playing in Prince Albert with the travel, the game schedule is the same and I think that can help you.”
Button did mention that he believed Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart may be better with more time but could make the jump in the right situations with the right support.
The Bakersfield Condors put themselves in a position to eliminate Utah in their ECHL best-of seven playoff series with a wild overtime win last night. The Edmonton Oilers ECHL affiliate tied the game with 0.8 seconds left on the clock in the third period to send the game to overtime, where Andrew Carroll’s shot from the corner propelled the Condors to a 3-2 victory.
Greg Miller scored on a rebound to give Bakersfield the 1-0 lead in the first period but two-straight goals by Utah put the game in doubt. With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Collin Bowman fired a wrist shot through traffic and in as time expired in the third period to send it to OT.
Oilers goalie prospect Laurent Brossoit made 26 saves in the win, including six in overtime.
The win gives the Condors the 3-1 series lead.
Kingston Frontenacs centre Sam Bennett was named the top North American prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting Services. Although he is smaller than the other top centre prospects (Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl), Bennett has a bit of an edge to his game as a highly competitive ‘sandpaper’ forward.
Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer had Bennett on his Oilers Now show on 630CHED on Thursday and asked the 17 year-old where he got that grit and competitiveness from. Bennett said it came from early on in his childhood.
“That’s definitely probably my strongest asset… Be the hardest worker, do whatever it takes to win and my dad drove that into me when I was little and I’ve just continued to do that growing up,” Bennett said.
Bennett places an emphasis on playing a ‘defence first’, 200-foot game. He models that after players like Los Angeles’ Mike Richards and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
“Those are just two guys that I try and play like,” he said. “They’re both great leaders, they both play the 200-foot game and compete like crazy so that’s what I try and do.”
Bennett scored 91 points (36-55-91) in 57 games this season for Kingston, compared to his 40-point year (18-22-40) last season. The improvements came from his growing confidence and physical growth as well.
“My confidence is definitely way higher this year. That along with getting bigger and stronger, it’s come together well. I’ve had a lot of success this year and I’m just going to continue looking to improve this summer and get bigger and stronger for next year.”
Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart was on Oilers Now with Edmonton Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Thursday and he was asked who he models his game after.
Reinhart, one of the draft’s top prospects, said it was Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I think it’s hard to compare yourself to any guy in the National Hockey League,” Reinhart said. “I think for a guy my age to look up to one of the better players in the league and to see what he’s done, a guy like Jonathan Toews, he’s so smart on both ends of the rink, he does everything the right way. The last year or two I’ve been watching him very closely and learning a lot from the little things he does in the game.”
Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart was on Oilers Now with Edmonton Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Thursday. As one of the top prospects in the NHL Entry Draft, many believe Reinhart could go in any one of the top four picks in the draft. With the Oilers sitting at three and the Calgary Flames at fourth overall, Stauffer asked Reinhart if the Vancouver, B.C. native had any issues with playing in a Canadian market versus being drafted by Florida or Buffalo at first or second overall.
“No I don’t,” Reinhart said. “Obviously, everything is out of my power now. It’s just kind of sitting back and waiting to see what happens. No matter where I get drafted to, I’m going to be thrilled to go there and my focus isn’t just on the draft. It’s camp in September and doing everything I can to make a good impression and obviously my goal is to make the team and contribute as soon as next year.”
Reinhart said he believes he is ready to contribute immediately no matter who drafts him.
“Yeah, I do. It’s been a focus of mine for quite some time now. You can’t just start this summer and work at it. It is going to be a big summer for me and it’s going to have to be but I’ve been working at it all year and the past few years and I feel confident in myself right now. I’m only going to get bigger and stronger over the summer and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sam Reinhart is ranked number one, on top of the International Scouting Services list of the top 30 2014 draft prospects. He is a consensus top three pick amongst many scouts and draft experts and the centre had a great season to back up their opinions.
Reinhart finished tied for fourth in scoring in the WHL with 105 points (36-69-105) in 60 games for the Kootenay Ice. Reinhart says he never really kept track of the rankings throughout the season but the issue has been drawing more attention to itself now that the season has ended.
“I’m certainly not going out and trying to look for it,” Reinhart said in an interview with Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now. “With this day and age with all the media, it’s kind of hard to stay away from it. You don’t look into it much just throughout the year. I just focus on my game and I thought I did that pretty well, to keep that in the back of my head. It’s always going to be there and especially with the season over now and that next month or so getting really busy, it’s kind of hard to get away from it.”
The Oklahoma City Barons scored the opening two goals but fell to the Texas Stars 3-2 in overtime in game one of their best-of-five opening round AHL playoff series.
Austin Fyten opened the scoring at 1:49 of the second period with a nice move in front of goaltender Christopher Nilstorp. The seventh overall pick in last year’s NHL draft and Edmonton Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse earned the assist.
Nurse also got into a fight in the game, coming to the defence of a teammate who was boarded by a Stars player.
Texas scored the next three goals including one 5:35 into the overtime period to win, 3-2.
Richard Bachman made 30 saves in net for the Barons.
Game two takes place on Saturday night in OKC.