by Lisa McRitchie on 10/26/11 at 04:15 PM ET
Oilers’ prospect Drew Czerwonka had to wait longer than most to play his first game of the season this year thanks to a shoulder injury suffered at the Oilers’ training camp. Although the wait was excruciating for the left winger, being named captain of his WHL team, the Kootenay Ice surely helped make his return to the game that much better.
Earlier this season, Czerwonka expressed his desire to be more of a leader for his team; “I have some goals set in mind for this year points wise and to be a bigger leader on the team this year. I think I’ll have some more PK and power play time so that will help me out points wise.” I’m sure Czerwonka meant leadership through his actions and words behind the scenes, but being awarded the ‘C’ by his teammates says that they already saw the leadership Czerwonka brings to the team.
According to Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch “Drew has the upmost respect from his teammates and coaching staff because of what he brings to rink everyday. He is one of the hardest working players on the team, but what sets him apart has been his commitment to the team. Like every player, he enjoys scoring goals, but he values team success over his individual success.
“From a coach’s standpoint, it is great to have someone like Drew as the team’s captain. This is his 4th year with the team and he represents quite nicely what this organization is about. Since the team arrived to Cranbrook, Kootenay has always been a blue collar kind of team, a lot of hard workers without the flash.
“Since Drew came back from his injury he has played quite well playing the left side on our top line. He has scored 5 goals and 2 assists in his 6 games back. He is also one of our top PK forwards. During his absence, the team likely missed his physical presence the most. His success has definitely impacted our team. The team has played quite well since his return winning 5 of 6.”
This is high praise from a coach who seems to believe in his players, and especially Czerwonka. That is definitely something the Oilers are looking for and need in their prospects going forward. The Oilers will need to start staggering in new prospects to their AHL and eventually NHL team and ideally the prospects will bring scoring ability as well as responsibility at both ends of the rink because everything starts in your own end.
The quick start to Czerwonka’s scoring has Czerwonka falling only one goal (but seven points) behind team leader Max Reinhart who has played twice as many games. Czerwonka hopes to lead his team to another Memorial Cup Tournament this year, and at this pace his team does stand a chance to get there.
Like all Oilers’ prospects, Czerwonka has an individual plan from the development coaches who are in constant contact with the young forward even if it is just a simple text message every week to check in.
At the WHL level, the Kootenay Ice are also concerned with Czerwonka’s development and wish to see him succeed because there is always room for improvement in every player. According to Knoblauch, “His skating has really improved since he entered the league as a 16 yr old. He is now a very good technical skater but there still is room for improvement to his starts.
“Drew is a player that drives hard to the net and does not mind going there. For him to be a scorer at the next level he will need to improve his goal scoring in tight around the net.”
Currently, the Ice are an exciting, hard hitting, fast skating and high scoring team that features NHL prospects beyond Drew Czerwonka as well as players who may be drafted this summer and beyond. The team currently leads the WHL Central Division, but the competition from Tyler Bunz and the Medicine Hat Tigers, as well as The Edmonton Oil Kings may be fierce.
Last season Czerwonka scored 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points through 68 games. It is too soon to look for trends in Czerwonka’s scoring six games in, but the current numbers are exciting and lead one to believe that Czerwonka could have a career WHL year this year as he is now another year older, wiser and stronger.
Many thanks to Kootenay Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch for taking the time to share his thoughts on his team’s captain. If you find yourself in Cranbrook B.C. I highly recommend taking in an Ice game. Otherwise, look for them in a WHL city near you.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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