The Junior Oilers are back on the ice as training camp continues at the Oilers Ice Center. Coach Zac Desjardins has brought back a core of solid veterans and appears to have built his team from the goal line out as three solid net-minders dominated the action on Thursday afternoon.
Eric Messer returns to Tulsa, from the Texas Brahmas, to back stop this team and it appears that it is his spot to lose. However, just as last year, Coach Desjardins has two other goaltenders, ready to push Messer to be his best. Both Colter Pritchard and Adam Salisbury appeared to be solid candidates, each showing flashes of brilliance during Wednesday’s session.
Returning on the blue line, are names the Junior Oiler faithful will remember. Captain Trevor Ruiz, Elliot Langford, Sam Hiserodt, Michael Evans, Michael Hutchinson, and Brandon Harris all took the ice and many, including a slimmed downed Langford, appear to be close to mid-season form. The only downside to what was a very upbeat session was the early departure of veteran Michael Hutchinson, who is being plagued by a lower back or leg injury which flared up over the past several weeks, (an MRI is scheduled for Monday). “Hutch” was noticeably gimpy on the ice and Coach Desjardin and Assistant Coach Ty Smith were quick to get him off. “I have pain that seems to start in my back and run into my leg, it’s just weird . . . I’ve been seeing Doc Roadhouse, and was feeling much better with his help, but I gotta get it looked at. We’ll see,” Hutch added.
With the departure of Bobby Watson and David Morong, the offensive side of the ice took a huge hit. However, returning veterans Matt Winkle, Landon Whomble (minus the facial hair), Kale Trylinski, Kyle Messer, and Brayton Van Gottum all understand it is their time to step up; and step up they will have to do. Consider this, Watson, and Morong combined for 100 points last year, and David was only a Junior Oiler for half the season. But enough about these two, (I promised Van Gotum I would mention his name more often), and they are on to their pro-careers and we all wish them well.
Three big surprises came in the form of two Tulsa natives and one hulking figure by the name of Hakim Senni. Senni, a 6’4”, 210lb native of Mount Pleasant, MI., has good hands and quick feet for his size. His shot reminded us, who bore witness, of Mike Berger from the 90’s Oiler’s team. It is hard and heavy, and will have opposing defenseman second guessing their nerve to block it. Adam Cahill appears to have put on a few pounds, in the right places over the summer, and if his maturity has improved, might make a good addition on the red line. (You have to bring it every practice kid). Jason Smalls was one of the biggest surprises of the camp so far. Listed at 5’9”, 130lbs, appeared to be more like 155lbs., as he has obviously worked on his game over the summer and “Hutch” took notice. “He is the hardest working guy out there! He will go to the gym and run like 4 miles after a practice. He has really improved.”
Camp continues weekdays from 1:45pm-3:00pm with all sessions open to the public. The Junior Oilers play there first road game(s) of the season as they renew pleasantries with the Junior Thunder in Wichita, October 11th, 12th, and 13th. The Junior Oilers first home game is Friday October 25th at 6pm, versus the Texas Brahmas. Tickets are available at the door or call 918-252-0011 for more information.