Patience is a virtue, and it’s something that Edmonton Oil Kings rookie forward Carson Latimer proved he had a lot of on his road to the WHL and now ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Unquestionably the 6-foot-1, 181-pound right-winger could have played in the WHL as a 16-year-old on a lot of rosters, however, the Oil Kings just simply didn’t have room for him on what was a very deep lineup card, one that would capture the WHL’s Eastern Conference regular season championship in 2019-20.
“I trained hard for that 16-year-old year, it was disappointing I didn’t get to play (in Edmonton),” said Latimer. “But I was able to go back to Delta and develop for another year and the Oil Kings had such a deep team, so it would have been hard for me to find minutes in that lineup when everyone is healthy. In the end it was better for me to go play another year of midget getting lots of minutes, getting bigger, stronger faster and develop my skills for this past season.”
Undeterred by his spot in the organization’s depth chart, the Surrey, BC native did go back to the Delta Hockey Academy and lit the CSSHL U18 league on fire. In 31 games he put up 49 points (15G, 34A) leading his team in scoring and finishing 24th overall in league scoring. Latimer also got a chance that year to make his WHL debut as a mid-season callup and wasted no time making an impression scoring his first career WHL goal on his very first shift in the league on December 3, 2019 against the Moose Jaw Warriors. He played in five more games before finishing the season back at Delta.
Primed for his first full WHL season, he had to once again rely on his patience as the league navigated potential start dates amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While he waited, he got into eight games with the Port Moody Panther Junior ‘B’ team in the PIJHL where his scoring ability continued to shine with 12 points (1G, 11A).
“Lots of guys didn’t have that option to play some games before the WHL season started,” added Latimer. “For me it was an opportunity to get back into game shape after being out of games for as long as we were. Playing against older guys and bigger guys was good for me, it was good competition and it helped me prepare for the WHL year.”
And ready he was. The smooth skating forward ended the WHL season with 16 points (5G, 11A) in 22 games and was named the Central Division’s Rookie of the Year after leading all rookies within the division in scoring and finishing eighth overall amongst rookies league wide.
“It was a unique year and I’m just really thankful we were able to have a season at all,” reflected Latimer on his first year in the league. “I think a lot of my success came from my coaches and teammates that I had around me helping me as much as they could. Being a rookie it’s not always easy coming into the league, especially this unique year, and we didn’t have a lot of games to find a rhythm before the season was over. As it went on the coaches showed some more trust in me and my linemates helped me in practice and the games building chemistry and I think that chemistry, both on and off the ice, was why we had so much success as a team.”
“I really liked his season,” said Oil Kings President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. “Let’s not forget, this kid hasn’t even played 30 games in the league yet and early on I don’t think he was expecting to get as much NHL attention, which I think was a little overwhelming for him at the start for a guy like that, but he really settled into his game.
“I think he’s one of the elite skaters in the league, he can really fly, he wins a lot of puck races, battles and has the ability to make some really nice plays when he gets to pucks quick and finds his teammates. He had a lot of chemistry with guys like Jalen Luypen, Carter Souch and Liam Keeler and it just seemed like the consistency got better each game, he’s still a young player growing into his role on a good team but we were quite happy with the year he had.”
NHL attention is exactly what he got, on May 27 he was ranked 149th amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft on July 23-24.
“It was really exciting,” said Latimer on seeing his name on the Central Scouting list. “There are a lot of talented players on there and me being on there as well was pretty cool. I try not to think about it too much though with what number it is or whatever because I don’t think it can define my skillset. I think I’ve got a long way to go and this year was just the beginning for me and I think next year will be a big year.”
“It’s been awesome,” noted Latimer on being one of five Oil Kings ranked for this year’s draft. “It’s fun to share the moment with those guys. I think Dylan (Guenther) and Sebastian (Cossa) are obviously exceptional players and deserve every ounce of praise they get. It’s also great for Jalen (Luypen), Ethan (Peters) and myself as well, obviously we’re not first-round guys but I think we have a lot of upside as well. I wish all those guys the best of luck in this draft and I know they all have really bright futures ahead of them.”