Future Watch: Drew Czerwonka
WHL's Kootenay Ice, Drew Czerwonka, headed to MasterCard Memorial Cup
Drew Czerwonka produced 13 goals & 43 points, along with 78 penalty minutes and a +9 rating this season with the WHL's Kootenay Ice (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).
Selected 166th overall last June, Oilers sixth-rounder Drew Czerwonka has had an excellent year with his Cranbrook club. The 18-year-old established a career-high 30 assists and +9 rating, along with 13 goals, in only 68 games this season.
"Matt Fraser and Max Reinhart have both helped me become a better player," Czerwonka explained. "They're both really skilled and I'm honoured to play on their line. We've really accomplished some great things this year."
The increased scoring totals have been a pleasant addition, but Czerwonka continues to focus on team success. Kootenay has provided that opportunity, with the Glenavon, Saskatchewan native stepping up in the team's championship season.
After handling Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Medicine Hat and Portland, Kootenay captured the WHL Championship earlier this month for the third time since being relocated from Edmonton in 1998.
As Czerwonka explains, the Ed Chynoweth Cup victory has come on the heels of an unforgettable season, shared with a treasured group of brotherly teammates.
"We went through a lot of adversity this year as a team," he said. "I don't think I've ever been part of a group that's come as close together we have. We're always together. It's like having 23 brothers. It's a really close group and we got even closer in the post-season when we ended up winning the championship."
Kootenay's sudden series victory over Portland was capped with a memorable Game 5 win, propelling the British Columbia squad to the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament once again.
Although the Ice were able to handle almost any WHL opponent this season, winning 46 games and earning a fourth-place ranking in the Eastern Conference standings, new teams and a new challenge will be presented when the nine-day competition begins this Friday in Mississauga, Ontario.
"I don't think we want to stray too far away from our game plan," Czerwonka said. "We've been successful with the way we've been playing. If we get away from that, we'll get ourselves in trouble. We're going to win games as long as we keep doing what we're doing, and our coaches keep telling us that."
In terms of preparation away from the on-ice sessions and practice procedures, Czerwonka explains that the team is looking to spend plenty of time studying video before the live action unfolds.
"We're going to watch some video on [the other teams]. That will help us learn some things about how they run a power-play, penalty kill and things like that. That will go a long way for us."
Czerwonka's success this season has helped provide additional depth to the Oilers' elite prospect pool. His path to the Memorial Cup began last summer when he was introduced to Edmonton and the NHL workload. A series of camps, workouts and high-intensity rookie games ushered in a new era for the 6'2", 194-pound winger.
"The coaches [in Edmonton] were really good," Czerwonka said. "I also learned a lot from the veterans, especially at main camp; how hard you have to work to get to that level, and how hard you have to compete day-in and day-out. It was a really good experience and I took a lot from those camps.
"The player development people in Edmonton are awesome, too. They've kept up with me all season, checking in now and then to see how things are going."
Perhaps more than anything, Czerwonka acknowledged that his game required seasoning at the current level. Targeted development plans followed. So, too, did his improvement on the ice. While that was an imperative step forward, prospect growth is an ongoing process.
This comes as no surprise to the willing winger. Making an impression at September's camp is the next step, and doing so will require a committed summer-season training program.
"I've got to work on my skating for sure," Czerwonka explained. "Having that quick step is important, so I'm training hard to improve my stride and agility. Once the season is over, I'll be working on that some more.
"[Edmonton] gave me an opportunity when they selected me, and they know that I'm still a ways from being where I need to be to make the NHL. I need to be a lot stronger. I've worked on that and my skating a lot this season, but this summer is going to be big for me. Once the season's over, I plan to get in the gym right away."
Foot speed is certainly a concern, but Czerwonka has nearly mastered another valued skill that could potentially earn him a position with the Oilers someday. Carving a niche, particularly in a bottom-six role, could present an even greater opportunity.
"I play hard every second I'm out there; and with the way I play, bouts usually come to me," he said. "Whether the team needs a boost or I'm out there to defend a teammate, I'm not afraid to get engaged that way. It's all about respect and I'm a believer that you earn that through your actions on the ice. Fighting is one way I do that.
"In the NHL I'd probably be an energy guy that that will get in hard on the forecheck, bang bodies; basically do whatever it takes to help my team. I think those skills will help me down the road."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com
2010-11 OILERS PROSPECT STATS (PLAYOFFS)
|19||4||1||0||1||-2||6||Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)|
|22||6||1||1||2||-1||0||OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS (AHL)|
|20||0||0||0||0||0||0||Oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|18||13||2||3||5||-2||4||kootenay ice (WHL)|
|23||-||-||-||-||-||-||university of maine (h-east)|
|26||0||0||0||0||0||0||OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS (AHL)|
|29||6||2||1||3||-1||2||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|19||0||0||0||0||0||0||OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS (AHL)|
|20||6||0||1||1||-2||4||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|20||-||-||-||-||-||-||quinnipiac university (ecac)|
|21||1||0||0||0||E||0||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|19||-||-||-||-||-||-||timra ik (sel)|
|23||0||0||0||0||0||0||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|18||4||3||2||5||-3||2||ottawa 67's (ohl)|
|26||6||1||1||2||-1||6||Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)|
|31||6||1||2||3||-2||2||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|23||6||0||2||2||E||0||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|24||6||1||2||3||E||4||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|28||6||1||1||2||+3||0||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|18||4||0||2||2||-1||6||edmonton oil kings (WHL)|
|19||0||0||0||0||0||0||medicine hat tigets (whl)|
|19||-||-||-||-||-||-||ilves tampere (fnl)|
|24||-||-||-||-||-||-||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|24||6||0||2||2||+1||21||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|25||5||0||1||1||+1||2||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|23||6||1||0||1||+2||6||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|22||2||0||0||0||E||2||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|22||4||0||1||1||N/A||2||stockton thunder (echl)|
|21||-||-||-||-||-||-||merrimack college (h-east)|
|18||4||2||2||4||-5||4||acadie-bathurst titan (qmjhl)|
|23||-||-||-||-||-||-||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|19||1||0||0||0||-1||0||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|19||-||-||-||-||-||-||sioux city musketeers (ushl)|
|18||4||1||4||5||-4||6||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|21||1||0||1||1||N/A||0||stockton thunder (echl)|
|28||6||0||0||0||+1||4||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|23||6||0||1||1||-1||4||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|21||5||0||0||0||E||12||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|18||10||4||6||0||1||2.97||.912||medicine hat tigers (whl)|
|26||1||0||1||0||0||9.00||.500||Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)|
|36||6||2||3||0||1||1.79||.931||oklahoma city barons (ahl)|
|22||1||0||1||0||0||9.00||.750||STOCKTON THUNDER (ECHL)|
|19||3||0||2||0||0||6.88||.739||acadie-bathurst titan (qmjhl)|