By Jim Douthat
Ah, spring time in Tulsa! You know it when it arrives. Frantic meteorologists interrupt our favorite television broadcast, itchy watery eyes return, and we are forced to dust off the lawnmower. On the brighter side, the NHL playoffs are in full swing and the boys are back at the ballpark. School will soon be out for summer and our children rejoice, while parents scramble to find them activities. (Mom and Dad check out fulltilthockeyok.com or oilersicecenter.net for cool ideas). Some of us have neatly packed the skates and hung up the broadcast microphones until September. Others, like head coach Zac Desjardins are hitting the road with hopes of finding young talent to bolster a core of returning favorites.
A five city trip covering two countries started on May 7th for Coach Desjardins. With visits to Langley, British Columbia, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, and Las Vegas (twice, hmmm), Desjardins hopes to find the pieces to fit into an elite returning core. Those “pieces” will be invited to the Junior Oiler prospect camp June 7-9, with the intent of finding players to replace the likes of Bobby Watson, David Morong, and Matt Winkle who carried most of the Junior Oiler offense throughout the season last year.
The core of players’ center around Captain Trevor Ruiz, whose stay at home blue line prowess was key to many of the Junior Oiler victories, as long as he stayed out of the box. With 184 penalty minutes last year, this Captain needs to see this stat head south without losing the intensity he brings to every game. Also returning to play the blue line are Sam Hiserodt, Mike Hutchinson, and Mike Evans. These four defensemen combined for just over 30 points last season, and are key pieces if the Junior Oilers hope to return to the playoffs again. It is obvious Desjardins’ ideology is defense wins hockey games, as four out of the five signed to date all play the blue line. The other returning player is forward Brayton van Gotum from Waddell, AZ. Van Gotum appeared in 45 Junior Oiler games last season, ending with two points and being a work horse for the team. More importantly; he only picked up 31 penalty minutes all season as he played solid disciplined hockey.
So Junior Hockey Fans rejoice! While we are mowing yards, planning summer fun and watching the Canadiens de Montreal challenge, no wait, the Blues fighting for, well heck!! While you’re watching your favorite hockey team and its quest for Lord Stanley, Coach Zac Desjardins is racking up the frequent flyers miles and getting his daily fix of continental breakfast, all for us fans; and the hopes of building on what was truly a successful inaugural Junior Oiler Season.