Edmonton, AB – The Edmonton Oil Kings announced today the team’s leadership group ahead of the 2020-21 Western Hockey League season.
Forward Scott Atkinson (Vancouver, BC) will serve as the team’s captain for a second consecutive year, joining Mark Pysyk (2010-2012) and Griffin Reinhart (2012-2014) as the only multi-year captains in franchise history.
Atkinson, 20, is entering his fourth and final season in the WHL, having spent his entire career with the Oil Kings after being drafted in the fifth-round (98th overall) of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. In 175 career games played, he has amassed 30 goals and 40 assists. He was named the team’s Kristians Pelss Award winner following the 2018-19 season, given to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be an Edmonton Oil King on and off the ice. He is the 13th captain in modern franchise history.
“The character that he brings to our group,” said Oil Kings Head Coach Brad Lauer on what makes Atkinson an ideal captain. “He did a great job for us last year and we didn’t see any reason we would want to change. He brings the qualities and values we believe that make a strong leader and what he does in the room and away from the rink with our guys is important.”
Joining Atkinson on the leadership committee will be defenceman Matthew Robertson (Sherwood Park, AB) and forward Jake Neighbours (Airdrie, AB) as full-time alternate captains, while forward Dylan Guenther (Edmonton, AB) will serve as an alternate captain for home games and defenceman Ethan Cap (North Vancouver, BC) will serve as an alternate captain for road games.
Robertson, 19, is a 2019 second-round pick (49th overall) of the New York Rangers and is entering his fourth season in the WHL. He joined the organization after being selected in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. Last season, Robertson set new career highs in goals (13), assists (34) and points (47) and was named as the team’s Most Valuable Player and Top Defenceman. His 105 career points ranks eighth all-time amongst Oil Kings defencemen. This will be his third season serving as an alternate captain.
“Matthew has been very solid in that leadership role for a while, he’s embraced it,” added Lauer on having Robertson once again wearing a letter. “The way he conducts himself off the ice and the way he carries himself is everything we believe a leader is, and the way he helps out in the dressing room with our young guys is a great example.”
Neighbours, 18, is a 2020 first-round pick (26th overall) of the St. Louis Blues and is entering his third season in the WHL. He joined the organization after being selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Neighbours was named as the team’s Most Improved Player last year as he finished the season 17th in league scoring, registering 70 points (23G, 47A), a 46-point increase from his rookie year. Off the ice, Neighbours continued to excel, winning his second straight Scholastic Player of the Year award for the team. Prior to the start of the 2019-20 WHL season, Neighbours represented Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, serving as an alternate captain for Team Canada and helping the team capture a silver medal.
“He has that ability to pull guys into situations and I think that’s a good quality to have as an individual,” stated Lauer on putting a letter on Neighbours. “Even last year, not having a letter, he’s always been one of those guys that is that natural type of leader, and we felt this year after getting through his draft year last year he would be ready to have a letter on his jersey.”
Guenther, 17, is entering his second season in the WHL. He joined the organization after being selected in the first round (first overall) in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Last season he became the first Oil Kings player in franchise history to win the Jim Pigott Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie. During his torrid freshman campaign, he set rookie franchise records for goals (26) and points (59). He is currently rated as an ‘A’ prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft.
“He had a tremendous rookie year last year and made some really big gains,” said Lauer of the youngest member of his leadership corps. “With the team that we have and with the mix of younger and older guys, he’s kind of that bookend between those guys and we felt that he’s someone that our younger core guys would look up to and follow.”
Cap, 20, is entering his fifth season in the WHL. He joined the organization after being selected in the first round (11th overall) in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. He is the longest-tenured current member on the roster having suited up in 265 career games, which ranks fourth all time in franchise history (tied with Ashton Sautner). In 2019 he attended the Edmonton Oilers rookie camp. This marks his third season as an alternate captain.
“It’s important with guys like that, he’s been here five years and the experience he brings,” Lauer said on Cap being a voice in the locker room. “He’s everything, the way he conducts himself on and off the ice is a great example of what we want our guys to follow.”
The Oil Kings open their 2020-21 season on Friday, February 26 as they play host to the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Downtown Community Arena at 7:00 PM.