Sherwood Park, AB – Raised in St. Albert, Edmonton Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk has thus far done a good job keeping his hockey career in his hometown.
Often, by the time an elite player hits midget or junior age they ply their trade elsewhere, but in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, the Edmonton Oil Kings selected Ewanyk in the third round, 48th overall. This meant the 6-foot-1, 178-pound centre could continue to play hockey in the capital region.
“I was really fortunate in bantam to be drafted by the Oil Kings, then playing for the OIl Kings to get drafted by the Oilers — the big club — I was really, really lucky,” said Ewanyk.
Although he did not attend the draft in Minnesota, he was glued to the NHL Network’s coverage of rounds two through seven on Saturday morning with his family, eager to see where he might be chosen.
“I was sitting at home in the living room with my family. I had it on the TV there. I was a little bit nervous,” he said, noting that when he saw his name come up in the third round, 74th overall to the Edmonton Oilers, it was like a dream come true.
“It was amazing. Hometown, it’s an honour. When I saw Edmonton come up, it was really exciting.”
Ewanyk is the first Oil Kings player to be directly drafted by the Oilers. Several of his other teammates and fellow Development Camp attendees (at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park this week) Kristians Pelss and Cameron Abney are now also Oilers property.
Slovakian defenceman Martin Gernat was also drafted by Edmonton this year and he has since been selected by the Oil Kings in the CHL Import Draft and will also be in Oil Kings silks next season.
“I’ve been skating with Pelss and Abney out here. It’s awesome to be drafted by the Oilers and all be together out here. To come with a teammate, it’s awesome,” Ewanyk said.
Pelss, Abney, Gernat and Ewanyk have one advantage over their fellow prospects as they have the ability to practice and play on a regular basis at Rexall Place, home of the Oilers.
“it’s a great experience. You get to see all the pros walk in and out. You get to see the Oilers and the other teams, going in and watching their practices,” he said. “You get to see what life is like at the higher level.”
Ewanyk sees himself as a player who can play both ends of the ice and mix it up on occasion.
“I’m a two-way guy, a pretty gritty player. I can also drop the gloves and chip in offensively as well.”
He added that he’s strong on draws but can play any forward position if called upon.
In 2007-08, Ewanyk played for the St. Albert Bantam AAA Sabres and had 12 goals and 31 points in 30 games. In 2008-09, he had 19 points in 33 outings for the St. Albert Midget AAA Raiders.
Although he only managed a goal and five points in 42 games in his WHL rookie campaign, Ewanyk really stepped up his play this past season.
“Coming in as a second-year guy I just wanted to build off last year and establish a role on the team,” he said. “As the season went on, I think I grew as a player and as a leader on the team.”
In 72 games, Ewanyk scored 16 goals and added 11 assists for 27 points and had 126 penalty minutes for the Oil Kings in 2010-11.
“The team had some ups and downs and so did I but I think at the end there — we got into the playoffs, didn’t get the result we wanted there — but I think we took a really big step forward with the organization.”
At season’s end, Ewanyk continued to up his stock, representing Canada at the World Under-18 Championship, followed by a strong showing at the NHL Scouting Combine in early June.
“Any time you get to put on that Canada jersey, it’s special. It was a huge honour when I got that phone call. Playing with guys all over the country, guys like Ryan Murphy and Mark Scheifele — guys like that. It was awesome,” he said. “Obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but it was a great experience.”
As for the Combine, he ended up finishing in the top 10 in Peak Power Output, Mean Power Output, Pull Strength and Standing Long Jump.
He also finished second in Vertical Jump, was first in the four jump and first in pound-for-pound bench press.
“It was kind of a grind there at the end with the playoffs then a quick turnaround at the U18s,” Ewanyk recalled. “That was a whole different experience in itself but I enjoyed it. I took the time at the gym when I got home and really prepared. I thought I did well.”
As for his off-season, Ewanyk has been continually training to get ready for the 2011-12 campaign with the Oil Kings. Following Development Camp, he’ll start to ramp it up in advance of Oilers Rookie Camp in early September.
“I’m just going to try and get bigger and stronger, try to put on some weight. Going to try and work on my skills and offensive side there and come into camp here with the Oilers and just go as far as possible.
“Going to go back to the Oil Kings with a real solid group of guys and try to push for a championship. Going to take all the experience I can from here and hopefully, one day, move on.”