Forward thinking on deadline day
Hockey: Oilers add three up-front
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am
The Okotoks Jr. A Oilers made a big splash on deadline day.
Okotoks was among the busiest teams in the province during the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s trade deadline on Jan. 10 after acquiring sniper Derek Thorogood from the Calgary Canucks for Mitch Amatto, bringing in Bennett Huber from the Merritt Centennials for future considerations and signing free agent Stefan Burzan.
“I think we’re a lot better on paper,” said Oilers head coach/GM James Poole. “We’re a lot stronger. I like our forward makeup. We’re not going to be as offensively challenged anymore and we still have a hard-working makeup to our club.
“We’re right there. This year it’s up for grabs in the league and we’re definitely one of those teams that has a good shot.”
Not anticipating any big moves, the Thorogood transaction came about at the 11th hour when the Oilers’ brass couldn’t let an opportunity to acquire an elite scorer slip away.
“Last day all of a sudden we saw that he was available and the original price was pretty high and they came down a bit,” said Poole. “It was really tough to move Mitch, he’s a great kid, we think highly of him and he wasn’t a player we were looking to move. Unfortunately that was the price we had to pay.
“Derek, we think he gives us a little more offence up the middle… It makes our offence a little more balanced and he could definitely contribute to where we want to go.”
Amatto registered six goals and 16 points this season for the Oilers with the Calgary product amassing a total of 15 goals and 31 points in parts of two seasons with Okotoks.
In Thorogood, Okotoks adds a top-20 scorer in the league with 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 39 games while plying his trade with the last-place Canucks.
As Calgary’s playoff hopes hit the slim-to-none mark, Thorogood was looking to be moved for his final shot at post-season glory and earning a scholarship in his Junior swan song.
“It’s my last year and playing in the playoffs is huge for me,” said Thorogood. “It’s definitely going to be an experience for me. I’ve only played in two playoff series and with this team I think we have a really good chance of going far. I’m really excited.”
Thorogood is Okotoks’ seventh 1993-born player on the roster, one over the league maximum, but with fellow 20-year-old Max Mowat out with an injury it’s not an issue the coaching staff currently has to deal with.
“When we are healthy we’re going to have to sit one out which isn’t a fun situation,” Poole said. “But we thought the opportunity to get that might put some pressure on the other guys to pick their games up.”
Huber, a Calgary native and two-year veteran with Merritt of the British Columbia Hockey League, is expected to add depth and leadership to the forward ranks.
“He’s a hard working kid and comes from a good program in Merritt,” Poole said. “We’re adding some depth, a guy we can probably play in a third-line role. He had a leadership role in Merritt so we think we’re getting a good kid.”
Burzan skated this season with the Victoria Grizzlies and caught on briefly with the Coquitlam Express who ran out of cards and sought to find the big two-way forward a new home.
“They (Coquitlam) didn’t see me as a fit on their team, they brought in a bunch of new guys, so coach made a few phone calls, Okotoks being one of them, and I thought it was the best fit for me,” Burzan said. “I heard it’s a hockey town. Watching a couple games from last year’s playoff series against Brooks, obviously the community is involved with the hockey.”
The six-foot, 195 pound forward brings a defensive, penalty-kill acumen to the ice and priceless experience after participating in the RBC Cup with his hometown Surrey Eagles last season.
“It was a great run, we were never ranked in the top-20 in Canada, but we just knew amongst ourselves we had the team to go all the way,” Burzan said. “The main goal is the RBC (again) so I just want to play my part.”
For more information on the Oilers go to okotoksoilers.ca