"He may have to have surgery and if he does he may be lost to us for a 4-5 month range, depending on rehab."
That coming from Edmonton Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal in conversation with Corey Graham tonight on TEAM 1260's Sports Night Live in regards to injured forward Travis Ewanyk.
It's not a certainty yet but as the old saying goes, "hope for the best but plan for the worst". It would be a big loss for the WHL club but as the coach said, the team does have options.
Corey Graham, the play-by-play voice of the Oil Kings, had the coach on his popular evening show and addressed the elephant in the room; why 3rd round pick Travis Ewanyk didn't make the trip to Penticton with the rest of the Edmonton Oilers prospects.
"Travis has a bit of a nagging injury," said Laxdal, "He came in to camp and skated with us, he then went to the Oilers camp to get ready for Penticton and through the physicals they came across the nagging injury, which we knew about, and basically what they are going to do now is get consulting with an orthopedic surgeon just to see what they can do."
Laxdal was careful not to disclose the area of the body that is hurt but "shoulder" has been mentioned recently.
One might wonder when the injury occurred originally. If it was before the draft you would think it may have been discovered at the NHL combine during the physical testing. If it was at the Oilers summer prospect camp, the NHL team would have (or should have) addressed it in the off season. I have to assume then that the shoulder injury happened during the Oil Kings pre-season tournament in St. Albert.
So what happens next for the key Oil King?
"He may have to have surgery and if he does he may be lost to us for 4-5 month range depending on rehab," said Laxdal, "If he does have surgery, he's a player that we would expect to have back going into playoffs which is a good time to come back. It's unfortunate, we were really counting on him going into the season and he's put a lot of work in being that it was his draft year."
"He's pretty disappointed to not have the chance to skate in Penticton but I know that in the next couple of days he'll be seen by more doctors and making that decision of if and when the right time for that surgery is. I'm sure that he won't be playing through it just because he has a long career ahead of him."
Laxdal, ever the optimist, said as unfortunate it is for this to have happened in mid-September, it's not the worst scenario that he could imagine.
"It could of happened in the first game of the year so you really have to be positive about it."
So what do the Oil Kings do now? Can they address the issue from within or will they have to go outside the organization for a replacement?
"This is an excellent opportunity for some of the young guys that we've been playing [in the preseason] for a guy to step up into that position," said the coach, "This is obviously going to elevate Curtis Lazar into that #2 hole behind Michael St. Croix and now we've got to fill that #3 hole down the middle. That becomes an opportunity for a guy like Cole Benson, Stephane Legault, Rhett Rachinski, etc. so there's got to be a bit of healthy competition and we feel that we have enough depth now that we can plug in that hole for Trav."
Rachinski is the veteran who is pretty much "plug n' play", he can play all three forward positions but I have to admit the mention of Benson has me intrigued. The rookie has looked terrific every time I've seen him play so far, and can also handle a two-way job description. Benson, generously listed at 5'8 on the Oil Kings website, racked up more than a point per game last year but was named his league's Defensive Player of the Year. I'd like to see him get the shot provided he's played as well on the road this month as he did at home. And no, the player pictured above between Ewanyk and Louie the Lion is not actually Benson.
The WHL regular season for Edmonton begins on September 25th, a road game in Red Deer, so we won't have to wait long to see what is in store for the team and for Ewanyk.