by Lisa McRitchie on 03/30/12 at 02:30 AM ET
The Edmonton Oil Kings have had a tremendous season. They clinched the WHL Central Conference title, set several modern franchise records and from the current CIS rankings, will see five players drafted in this year’s NHL entry draft.
Every player on the Oil Kings’ roster has been digging in and playing hard, giving it all that they have in each and every single game, but there are of course several players of note. One has to be the young Latvian; Kristians Pelss.
Pelss was drafted in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL entry draft and was subsequently picked up by the Oil Kings in the CHL draft. With the Oil Kings, Pelss has been able to learn to the North American game, work closely with other Oiler prospects and even work on his English.
When Pelss first came to North America, all of his interviews were done with the aid of a translator. One year later, the transformation is remarkable. Pelss not only gives his own interviews, but also translated for his teammates at the IIHF World Juniors in Calgary.
When you catch the sometimes shy Pelss after a rare Oil Kings loss, words seem to be more of a struggle than the days after an Oil Kings victory. It has taken time, but Pelss has gained more confidence off of the ice and is more commonly found smiling and showing his sense of humour such as in this recent Oil Kings video. Fellow European player and Oilers’ prospect Martin Gernat do interviews with captain Mark Pysyk for a Minute with Mark, but in their native language with some questionable subtitles.
Pelss finished the regular season sixth for points with 50 and fifth for scoring with 28. Of those 28 goals, 5 have been game winning goals while several more have been game tying goals, short handed and arguably, all have been important. You see, Pelss has been a clutch player for the Oil Kings, scoring when the team needs a goal the most.
Tthis September Pelss will turn 20 and could play another season with the Oil Kings, or he could make the move to pro. If you ask Pelss what he would like to see happen, he will quickly brush you off and say that the WHL playoffs are all that matters until the end. With the Oil Kings’ season, you have to believe that to be true for all of the players.
The Oilers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to re-signing RFA players and prospects to entry level contacts. You have to think that they will find room for Pelss somewhere.
The first of the ELCs were signed earlier this month when goaltender Tyler Bunz signed his first professional contract. Likely Bunz will see ice time in the ECHL next season, but there may be a surprise, and Bunz may end up in the AHL in Oklahoma City if even just for a few games.
Other prospects that will need ELCs this year are Drew Czerwonka (LW WHL Kootenay Ice), Martin Marincin (D WHL Regina Pats), Jérémie Blain (D QMJL Victoriaville Tigres), and Brandon Davidson (D WHL Regina Pats). Prospect Kellen Jones (LW ECAC Quinnipiac University) is a college student and so will not have to worry about a contract until he finishes his schooling.
Looking at the list, and knowing that the Barons could use some help on their blueline, it will be interesting to see which players will be assigned to OKC through the playoffs. The Regina Pats are on the ropes against the Moose Jaw Warriors, one more loss and Marincin and Davidson could be preparing for a try out assignment.
Czerwonka and the Kootenay Ice were swept by the Oil Kings this week, and so he may get a taste of either the ECHL with the Stockton Thunder or the AHL during their playoff runs. But for Pelss, the Oil Kings should have a long playoff run and so a try out may not be in the cards. Pelss won’t be concerned about that situation at all however. Giving his team the go ahead goal Wednesday night the young Latvian continues to be a difference maker, an exciting prospect, and a player the Oilers are proud to have in the organization.
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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.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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