by Lisa McRitchie on 01/08/12 at 10:00 AM ET
Edmonton Oil King and Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Kristians Pelss was named the Team Captain for his country, Latvia in the 2012 IIHF World Juniors Tournament. For Pelss, being the team captain, the only player drafted into the NHL, a player currently playing in Alberta, and one of the few players on the team that speaks English fluently made him a very popular man with the media. With every loss, Pelss had to field more questions than any of his teammates. And although the weight of the world looked to be on his shoulders, Pelss handled it all with grace and strength.
Pelss was selected by the Oilers in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL entry draft, and was subsequently selected by the Oil Kings in the CHL expansion draft.
With the Oil Kings so far this season, Pelss has played 34 games, has 13 goals, 12 assists and is a +19. While this doesn’t make Pelss an elite scorer at the WHL, his sophomore totals at the midway point of the season have nearly matched last season’s totals.
At the 2012 IIHF World Juniors tournament Pelss sustained a lower body injury in Latvia’s game against Russia, but only missed the teams next game; one against Switzerland. Unfortunately for Pelss and Team Latvia, the team only won their last game of the tournament.
While the team only scored 12 goals, Pelss had 1 goal and 2 assists and so contributed to ¼ of the team’s scoresheet offence.
According to Latvian coach Erik Miluns, who spoke through a translator, Pelss was named captain by his fellow teammates. All captains and assistants were voted on by the players, but the coach agreed with the selections.
To Miluns, Pelss is “Obviously the best player that we have. The stats don’t show, but he’s a team leader, and a team player all of the way through. The stats are not showing but he keeps working hard.” In the case of Team Latvia, the stats didn’t show how hard any of their players were working, but there will always be teams with a lesser winning record than others.
For Pelss, being named captain held a lot of significance. Most importantly, Pelss felt he needed to lead by example. “It means a lot to me to be a team leader and help guys. My English is not so good but I try to help guys and be a good team leader and play hard every game. If guys see me play hard then they try to play harder too.”
Pelss, like all of the NHL prospects at the tournament hopes to take something with him. “It’s a very good experience [playing in the World Juniors]. You play the best teams and the best players our age. You understand how different players play and you understand that you have to keep working harder.”
“This was the first tournament where I have been captain. It was a good experience.”
While Pelss is not a high profile draft pick, he is a hard worker with skills enough to warrant his selection by the Oilers’ amateur scouting staff. Pelss has made improvements through his time in the WHL and this experience at the World Juniors will only help. Unfortunately for Pelss, it’s almost as if he got to experience what playing on the Oilers team must be like some days.
Pelss does show offensive talent, despite not being the biggest player out there. Also on his side is a strong work ethic and a desire to lead by example. The Oilers have yet to sign Pelss to an entry level contract, but playing on a team that is doing as well as the Oil Kings currently are can only help Pelss, no matter where his hockey path leads.
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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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