This past week has been the wildest I can remember in my time in the Western Hockey League. This year’s trade deadline was full of intrigue as numerous teams around the league paid astronomical prices to load up for championship runs. Since the December roster freeze ended, upwards of 43 trades were made by the 22 member clubs, involving 84 players and 72 draft picks. The Oil Kings were never going to be a major player at this year’s deadline after selling off assets last season. Their hand, however, was forced into a position where it made sense for them to make a major roster move.
As general manager Randy Hansch outlined in the club’s press release on Wednesday afternoon, forward Davis Koch had requested a move out of Edmonton. I can’t say this came as a major surprise to those close to the team, as it seemed that the time had come for Koch to move on. The rumour mill started to ramp up when he didn’t dress on Tuesday in Brandon. Head Coach Steve Hamilton didn’t shed much light on the situation that night, but did open up after the deal was done on Wednesday.
“He wanted different circumstances and a different opportunity,” the coach reflected. “He was looking for a change and sometimes a fresh start is best for everybody involved.”
I think anyone can understand a veteran who has been in the league for a few years wanting the chance to play for a contending team. It became clear it was time for both sides to move on. For the Oil Kings it allows other players to step into the void that Koch leaves in the lineup and allows the organization to net some important assets back. Koch leaves behind an impressive offensive resume as an Oil King. He suited up for 224 games with Edmonton, and his 158 points puts him 8th on the Oil King’s all-time scoring list. His 59 career goals is 9th best in Oil King history and he sits tied with Cody Corbett for 8th all-time in assists with 99.
New Oil Kings Brendan Semchuk and Todd Scott joined the team on Thursday afternoon in Regina. The third round pick Edmonton received was originally the Oil King’s selection they had previously shipped to the Vancouver Giants in exchange for Jesse Roach. Semchuk is in his third season in the WHL and is a first round pick of Vancouver in 2014. The Kamloops product has eight goals this year and was a member of Team Canada Red at the 2015 Under 17 Hockey Challenge.
“Brendan Semchuk is a forward who can really skate,” Hamilton told me when I asked for a scouting report on his newest players. “He’s a bigger body who can shoot it. That’s something we were looking for.”
As for Todd Scott, the17 year-old Minnesota-born goalie is in his first WHL season. According to Guy Flaming, my colour commentator on the Oil King broadcasts, he was a bit of a surprise for Vancouver this year. He was a late pick (10th round) by the Giants in 2015. General manager Glen Hanlon told Flaming that the Giants didn’t think Scott would come north until this summer, when the player contacted the team and said he wanted to commit to the WHL. He’s had phenomenal numbers coming up through the Omaha Lancers program and is eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.
I’m looking forward to seeing who emerges in the dressing room now that a long standing voice like Koch has moved on. Steve Hamilton made a point of commending Tomas Soustal as a leader and a player, who as an over-ager, reinforced that he was all in with the Oil Kings for the remainder of the year. For my money, Soustal has been a fantastic addition to the club, both in play on the ice where he can dominate a game and his personality and leadership off it. This time last year it felt like the heart was ripped out of the team when Aaron Irving and Lane Bauer were moved. It seemed there was a void over who would step up and lead the young group. After this season’s deadline it’s almost like a weight has been lifted off the Oil Kings and they seem to be an eager, energetic group focused on improving every day and taking that next step forward.