Oilers duo earn Canada West invite
Hockey: John Edwardh, Rhett Gardner vying for spot in World Jr. A Challenge
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 06:00 am
Two Okotoks Junior A Oilers have been invited to an exclusive five-day event for the elite in Western Canada.
Linemates John Edwardh and Rhett Gardner are part of a group of 23 players from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to earn invites to the Canada West evaluation camp for the World Jr. A Challenge. The camp features the top players under 20 from British Columbia to Manitoba.
“I think it’s kind of a prestigious event if you’re playing in this league so it was for sure a goal of mine,” said Edwardh on earning the call to camp after missing out last year. “It’s tough in your rookie year to be invited to that, you have to be having an exceptional year.
“But it just motivated me more to get the invite this year.”
The Calgary native put himself in a position to be named among Canada West’s elite with his coming out party in the 2013 playoffs (13 goals, 19 points) and his subsequent commitment to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
“My goal is to make the team,” said Edwardh, a Holy Trinity Academy graduate. “If I play my game like I did in the playoffs I have a pretty good chance, but it’s a tough team to make so I’m not going to be too disappointed if I don’t make it.”
Gardner, a Moose Jaw product, said he was surprised to hear he made the exclusive list of 66.
“That’s a good list of players there,” he said. “It’s definitely an honour to be named with those guys.”
The 17-year-old rookie has quickly made a name for himself in Alberta, registering two goals and seven points while centering the Oilers’ first line alongside Edwardh and captain Robbie Fisher.
“I’m a big two-way forward, I’m versatile I can play the wing and centre and that helped me get on this list,” said Gardner, whose gradually improved in Oilers colours. “The first couple games I was a little hesitant, but ever since then I’ve settled in real nice and the guys have been awesome.”
He’s hoping to carry the momentum into a solid showing at the evaluation camp.
“We play Brooks Wednesday and are home Friday night so I’m hoping to have a couple good games and hope that leads me into a strong camp,” Gardner said. “I just need to stay within myself and not try anything new.
“The reason I got asked is because of the player I am and there’s no need to change anything to try and make the team.”
Gardner, who has already committed to the University of North Dakota, was named to NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary watch list for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. An honour that surely helped his cause for Canada West.
“With these things the central scouting does have a bit of a pull towards recommending certain players we want to see at these camps,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “Right now, Rhett’s stats probably don’t reflect what he’s doing. He’s doing a lot of good things and sooner or later is going to break out big time.”
Conspicuously absent from the list of invites is Oilers third-year goalie Jared D’Amico, a 1994-born player Poole was certainly expecting to see make the camp roster.
“D’Amico got kind of a raw deal and I think there were a few others that probably should have been in contention as well,” Poole said. “They only have limited room on how many 94s they can take.
“That hurt (Jared) and the two returning goalies from last year’s team were 94s … I think Jared was at least deserving of a camp invite to compete for the job.”
Canada West’s incumbent goalies are Drumheller Dragon Curtis Skip and Powell River King Jonah Imoo. Other notables at camp include former Oiler defenceman Sasha Larocque, now a member of the Grande Prairie Storm.
The Canada West evaluation camp goes from Oct. 26 to 30 at WinSport in Calgary. The 2013 World Junior A Challenge runs from Nov. 4-10 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Canada West is pooled alongside Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Canada West last won the event in 2011 with a team featuring Oilers alumnus Rhett Holland. Canada West finished second to the United States last year.
For more on the event go to hockeycanada.ca/wjac
Rough road trip
Okotoks returned from its most punishing schedule of the season with two of a possible six points.
Identical 3-1 losses to the Lloydminster Bobcats and Spruce Grove Saints, on Friday and Saturday, put the Oilers behind the eight ball.
The Oilers salvaged a 4-3 win over the Sherwood Park Crusaders in the weekend finale on Sunday afternoon.
Okotoks received goals form Ty Clay, Taylor Allan and a pair from Edwardh to hold off the Crusaders. D’Amico, making his third start in as many days, stopped 20 shots for his eighth win of the season.
Okotoks is in Brooks tonight to face the Bandits in a battle of the top two clubs in the South Division.
The Oilers make their long anticipated return to the friendly confines of Pason Centennial Arena this weekend. The Oilers meet the Canmore Eagles for the first time this season on Friday and welcome the top-ranked Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Saturday. Both games are 7 p.m. puck-drops.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca