Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top 5 Tuesday

This week on Top 5 Tuesday, we'll explore what we think will be the top 5 stories to watch with the Oil Kings this year. The season begins this Friday as the OK kids host Medicine Hat at Rexall Place. You can win a pair of tickets Tuesday night on The Pipeline Show during Bad Ass Trivia, so without further babbling, here is the TPS Top 5 Tuesday:

5. Where will goals come from? The good news is 4 of Edmonton's top 4 scorers are back from last year. The bad news is, none of then had more than 16 goals or 39 points. You would have to expect Tomas Vincour, who led the way in the points department, will be on top again, and could hit the 75-80 point mark. Fellow Czech forward Robin Soudek will be expected to put up some numbers, as will Brendan Dowd, Craig McCallum (pictured) and Brett Breitkreuz. They will all have to be better, as will some others like Brent Raedeke, and Jeff Lee, who potted 11 points in his final 11 games last season. If lee uses his size down low properly, he might be able to notch 20-25 goals.

4. The Evolution of Mark Pysyk. I first watched Mark Pysyk skate at a practice in Sherwood Park as a bantam, and was amazed at his effortless stride and take over the play ability. The Oil Kings snapped him up 3rd overall. Once his midget season ended, Pysyk joined Edmonton for a 14 game run. He didn't look out of place at all, registering 1 goal 2 assists and 8 penalty minutes. While he was -8, not one player with Edmonton was a plus player. Pysyk at times ran the power play during his 14 game stretch. He'll do more of that this year, and will learn from offensive blueliner Brandon Lockerby along the way. Touted as a high 2010 draft pick, Pysyk should help the Kings transition from their own end this year, whether he skates it out with smooth strides, or passes with precision. The only concern is his youth and the Kings will have to be careful not to put to much pressure on his young shoulders.

3. What impact with Robin Soudek have? Last year as one Robin went, so did the Oil Kings, and Steve Pleau are hoping that happens again, albeit with a new Robin in town. Robin Figren had 31 points in 35 games last year, the Islanders prospect battled through injuries, signed with New York in the off season and will play this year in his native Sweden. Edmonton grabbed Robin Soudek from the Czech Republic in the CHL import draft this summer and when it comes to first impressions, he gets top marks from me. During the team's pre season tournament a game against Regina turned rough. Soudek didn't hide in the corner, rather he engaged in a fight. He was physical all game long, and looks to have a potent shot. What will make the transition off the ice easier for Soudek is having countryman Tomas Vincour around.

2. How will Tomas Vincour handle pressure? It's a big year for the big Czech winger who some think has power forward potential. Her certainly doesn't shy away from driving to the net or battling in the corners. Vincour led the team with 16 goals and 23 assists last year, and really seemed to step up when Robin Figren was out of the line up due to injuries and the world junior tournament. It was similar to what Evgeni Malkin did when Sidney Crosby went down. This year Vincour will be the main target of oppositions, he'll suit up for the Czech Republic at Christmas for the world junior championship in Ottawa and it's his draft year. It will be up to head coach Steve Pleau, and G.M Bob Greene to make sure Vincour keeps a level head and doesn't get weighed down by the pressures of expectations. The Oil Kings have a few other players that are hoping to get drafted this June as well. Robin Soudek-RW, Lougan Proulx-LW, Rhett Rachinsky-LW, Michael Burns-RW, Jesse Pearson-D, Henrik Tervonen-D

1. Who will end up as the #1 Goaltender? Daylyn Flette has been handed the starters job. He saw action in 28 games last year compiling a record of 6-15-2-1, a hefty goals against average of 3.50 and a leaky .890 save per centage. But let's remember he was playing behind a team that struggled mightily in the second half. Can Flette carry the mail as a starter for the first time in his WHL career? I don't think so for the whole season. Luckily Edmonton has a top notch back up, who will eventually be their main man. Cam Lanigan has grown 3 inches since last year's training camp. His lateral movement is terrific and his positioning rarely leaves him having to make a desperation save. Lanigan will start the year as the back up, and the Oil Kings hope they don't have to turn to him to often, and that Flette will take the starters roll and run with it. Unfortunately for them, I think Lanigan will overtake Flette for the starters job at some point this season. And when you look at the pipeline for this team, you see some real strength between the pipes. Patrick Terris was in camp, and will play Junior A this year so as to not ruin any college eligibility he has, but he could be a contender for the Kings crease down the road. And the team drafted Laurent Brossoit this year in the 2nd round, he was the highest rated goalie in the bantam draft. It gives Edmonton a similar situation to what the Red Deer Rebels were in during the 2001 season where they were able to trade Michael Garnett to Saskatoon for Martin Erat, because they had Cam Ward coming down the pipe. With Erats help, Red Deer went onto win The Memorial Cup, and who knows maybe it's a situation the Oil Kings find themselves in down the road.

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