WELL ON HIS WAY

Top Oil Kings draft pick tak­ing strides

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Gerry MODDEJONGE gmod­de­[email protected]­media.com @Sun­mod­de­jonge

Bring on da bears.

The Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings beat the Regina Pats 6-1 on Wed­nes­day, putting an end to a five-game win streak and shak­ing the prover­bial mon­key off their back just in time to fo­cus on an­other type of fuzzy crea­ture.

Satur­day’s game at Rogers Place (7 p.m., TSN 1260) against the Kam­loops Blaz­ers is the an­nual Teddy Bear Toss night, where fur and fuzz will fly the mo­ment the first Oil Kings goal is scored.

“That would be un­real,” said Dy­lan Guen­ther. “But I’ll just take it shift by shift and try to play my game.”

Af­ter all, the 15-year-old na­tive of Ed­mon­ton only just scored the first goal of his promis­ing West­ern Hockey League ca­reer, which stood as the game-win­ning goal that opened the flood­gates in the of­fen­sive romp over the Pats.

And while no one in the stands launched any­thing onto the ice in the name of char­ity af­ter­ward, it’s a goal the first-over­all pick in the lat­est WHL draft won’t soon for­get.

“No, never. It’s a dream and it came true,” said the 15-year-old, who made his home-ice de­but Wed­nes­day at Rogers Place. “I couldn’t be hap­pier.

“It was a great pass by Lu­pes and a nice tap in. Hey, I’ll take it.”

But be­fore he could score his first WHL point, he watched Oil Kings cap­tain Trey Fix-wolan­sky score his 201st.

“Yeah, that’s crazy (com­ing off ) a 200-point night,” said Guen­ther, a White­mud West mi­nor hockey prod­uct, who also suits up with the Ed­mon­ton-based North­ern Al­berta Xtreme. “That’s a big ac­com­plish­ment for him. Ev­ery prac­tice, he’s work­ing hard and he’s shoot­ing ev­ery puck to score. That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to score goals, I think.

“He’s al­ways work­ing hard and try­ing his best, so I’m def­i­nitely pick­ing up on that.”

Not that he doesn’t have plenty of his own to show­case.

“He was re­ally good. That was the best I’ve seen him in the games he’s played with us,” said Oil Kings as­sis­tant coach Luke Pierce. “The other games were on the road, but I think he showed his com­fort. He’s get­ting there, and he got bet­ter as the game went on. His third pe­riod was re­ally good.”

It’s the ex­act type of pro­gres­sion the Oil Kings wanted to see from their No. 1 pick, which is a tag that fol­lows a player through­out their junior ca­reer and has proven to be both a bless­ing and a curse for some of the top draft choices in the past.

“Yeah, that’s tough. I think he’s got the right per­son­al­ity for it,” Pierce said. “It doesn’t seem like any­thing re­ally both­ers him, he doesn’t get up too high and he doesn’t seem to put a ton of pres­sure on him­self.

“He just en­joys play­ing the game and loves do­ing what he’s do­ing, so he’s a plea­sure to have around. Some­times, you don’t re­ally no­tice him be­cause he fits right in with the group. He’s go­ing to ob­vi­ously be a re­ally spe­cial tal­ent, and we’re ex­cited about the fu­ture with him.”

It wasn’t all that long ago he was in the stands for the Oil Kings’ Teddy Bear Toss night.

“I’ve been to two of them, ac­tu­ally. It’s a spe­cial night, it’s re­ally cool. So I can’t wait,” said Guen­ther, who has made a case to earn his way back into the lineup Satur­day. “I can’t even imag­ine what it would be like with that many peo­ple in the crowd. That would be crazy.”

The an­nual event en­cour­ages fans to bring a stuffed toy to the game and throw it on the ice af­ter the team scores its first goal. Last year, the Oil Kings col­lected 14,122 bears, which were do­nated to 630 CHED’S San­tas Anony­mous. From there, they are given to chil­dren through­out the city.

Shaughn BUTTS/POST­MEDIA

Oil Kings Trey Fix-wolan­sky is chased by Regina Pats Liam Schi­oler be­fore turn­ing to score on goal­tender Max Pad­dock dur­ing first on Wed­nes­day. This was his 201st point with the league. Be­low (from left) Con­nor Mcdon­ald, Trey Fix-wolan­sky, Ethan Cap, and Wy­att Mcleod model the teams’ spe­cial jersey for to­mor­row’s Teddy Bear Toss.

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