As the Western Hockey League season comes to an end this weekend the book will close on the junior hockey career of three Edmonton Oil Kings. It’s an emotional time for young men who began playing hockey as kids and really marks a milestone in their lives. The three graduating Oil Kings have all travelled a different path to get to this point, but all will share the emotions over the weekend.
It hasn’t been the year Travis Child was hoping for when he acquired by the Oil Kings in the offseason. The Killam, Alberta product was brought in to solidify the crease for the young team this season, and give them a chance to stay in some games early. While Child battled some inconsistency, he was starting to really become the pillar between the pipes the Oil Kings hoped he would be when he went down with a shoulder injury in December. After a stellar camp and preseason he was limited to 23 games as an Oil King. Despite being unable to play Child has been around his teammates for the majority of the season. His veteran demeanor and habits will be missed with the team moving forward, but hopefully some of the younger players learned from his attitude at the rink.
Tomas Soustal will finish his time in the WHL with over 240 games played in the league. A WHL Champion with the Kelowna Rockets in 2015, Soustal has been a major contributor in his lone season with Edmonton. He filled his role nicely, being a big heavy presence on the ice that is always a danger to score. Soustal will finish second on the team in points and has surpassed his previous career high. Brought in to add some leadership and veteran savvy, he became a go to guy in the dressing room for the younger players and leaves behind a positive impact on the organization. His future will be interesting as he should have plenty of options. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on a professional try-out with an American League club for the remainder of the season. He would also have an opportunity at the U SPORTS level or potentially a pro deal in Europe next season.
Finally, Colton Kehler has been an Oil King his entire WHL career, and the final home game on Saturday will see him hit 200 regular season games. Kehler joined the team as a 17 year-old in 2015 and has steadily seen his role increase over the years. This season he has posted career highs in goals (31), assists (18) and points (49). Originally a seventh round draft pick he has risen to become the captain of this year’s club and, heading into the weekend, sits tied for the team lead in goals. He will be remembered for his big shot, especially on the power play, where he likes to position for the one-time release on his off wing. His timely goal celebrations, including the recent thumbs up after the overtime winner in the Don Cherry game, also were fan favourites. His 66 career goals puts him in eighth spot on the all-time Oil King goal scoring list. He recently passed Mitch Moroz’s career total of 64.
Fans attending Saturday’s game against the Hitmen will have a chance to honour the graduating Oil Kings one final time as they participate in the pre-game team awards ceremony. Make sure you get to the game early to catch the complete awards celebration and jersey presentations.