Friday, December 19, 2008

Versatile Oiler Quinn Sproule made mark at Mac’s

You can find some gems at the biggest Midget hockey tournament in Canada.

Quinn Sproule, a first-year defenceman with the Okotoks Junior A Oilers, had his stock shoot up considerably after his performance with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons at the Mac’s Midget Hockey tournament last December.

He caught the eye of Oilers’ director of scouting Jay Magnussen.
“I was named a second-team all-star at the Mac’s,” the 18-year-old Sproule said. “The Oilers saw me there and I talked to Jay and Dan (Oilers coach-GM Dan MacDonald) afterwards and that’s where it started.”

The UFA Bisons lost in the semifinals at last year’s Mac’s tournament. Oiler forward Corban Knight, who also played for the Bisons last year, was named the Mac’s MVP last season.

Sproule was approached by teams from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — one of which wanted him to join the club right away. However, the Okotoks Oilers fit his plans for the future.

“I didn’t want to lose my eligibility for a U.S. scholarship (by playing major junior),” Sproule said. “Okotoks also showed more interest in me and it’s been a good fit.”

So far, Sproule has fit in nicely wherever the Oilers have put him. He had been playing forward until three weeks ago sometimes as a member of the Bison line with Knight and Brandon Hoogenboom.

He is now partnered with with Nicholas Bell on the blueline.

“We have some good chemistry going — we seem to know where each other is going to be,” Sproule said of his partner. “I would say I am an offensive-defenceman for sure. I like to move the puck.

“But Dan has worked with me on my play in my own end and I think I have improved it a lot. I’m finishing the body and stuff, so it’s good to have that aspect of the game too.”

Sproule has nine goals and 14 assists in 40 games with the Oilers.
He admits playing a 62-game schedule in the Alberta Junior Hockey League is an adjustment, but it is a challenge he feels he is up too.

He said coach Dan MacDonald has a good plan in place to keep the first-year players fit for the longer season.

Dan and our coaching staff has done a good job of giving us a day off, but making sure we are in good shape,” Sproule said, “but it will be nice to have the Christmas break.”

said while the Mac’s might have been the first time they had talked to Sproule, he was on the team’s radar prior to the tourney.
MacDonald said Sproule’s been the ultimate team player willing to play both forward and defence.

“Some guys might say: ‘There are scouts out there and I’m a defenceman, I don’t want to play forward, but he plays where we need him,” MacDonald said.
Sproule’s versatility is a benefit, particularly when the team has plenty of injuries or players in the penalty box, he said.

By Bruce Campbell
Sports Editor, Western Wheel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oiler Corbin Knight leaves rejection in past

Corbin Knight has grown into a coveted junior hockey prospect.

A disappointment, at the time, turned into one of the best things that could have happened to Corban Knight.

At age 14 and playing 'AA' bantam hockey with the Nanton-based Foothills Bisons, the High River product was passed over during his Western Hockey League draft year.

But four years later, carrying the potential to ink an NCAA scholarship and be drafted to the National Hockey League, the Okotoks Oilers leading scorer couldn't be happier.

"Everything's worked out fine," said Knight, 18,who has 21 goals and 35 points in 38 Alberta Junior Hockey League games. "I look back on it and it would have been a cool experience.

"When I was in bantam, you always think the Calgary Hitmen are pretty big and when you go and watch them, you think that is the only way into the NHL. But as time went on, you realize the AJHL is a great feeder program."

After playing a handful of games for the Oilers during last year's AJHL playoff run, Knight made the full-time jump from the midget 'AAA'Strathmore-based UFA Bisons in the fall.

Depending on how the year pans out, he'll decided whether he wants to head south to school--he's currently looking into the University of North Dakota and University of Massachusetts--or stay with the Oilers.

"It's obviously a big year," said Knight. It's my draft year and my big goal is to get an NCAA scholarship, those are two big things on my mind.

"I worked really hard in the summer to get where I am now. I think with all that, I was ready to make the step to the AJ. As long as I stay focused on the team and short-term goals, the long-term goals will fall into place."

Now standing six-feet tall and weighing in at 185-pounds, he could go in the third to fifth round of the upcoming NHL entry draft along with fellow Okotoks Oiler, Rodger Craig, according to the fall's preliminary NHL Central Scouting report.

"He's going to be a strong kid when he's done, he's still growing,"said Oilers head coach Dan MacDonald. "He'll end up to be six-one and about 195-pounds, I suspect, in a year or two."

And as for the rest of the Oilers, there is a good explanation to why they're leading the AJHL's South Division.

Aside from Knight's contributions, Okotoks have four lines that could score on any given night while their defence adds depth and has no trouble stepping up either.

Rounded out by stellar performances from rookie goaltenders Sean Cahill and Steve Papciak, the team was 25-12-1--and 9-1 in their last 10 games--going into this weekend's action.

Not too bad for a bunch of rookies.

"We have 15 new players to the league this year," said MacDonald. "We really have players who are stepping forward and making progress, especially in this last month.

"It takes about six weeks to get adjusted to the league and now they're starting to take off."

Oilers captain Justin Daigle, an offensive defenceman, has been leading from the blueline and racked up five goals and 22 points before the weekend.

By Kristen Odland
Calgary Herald

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Feisty Oiler Kyle Reynolds putting the puck in the net

An Okotoks Junior A Oiler has found the third time is a charm.
Kyle Reynolds, 18, signed with the Oilers as a 15-year-old Midget. After two previous attempts to make the team, the Sylvan Lake native finally made the cut this fall.

“When I was 15, I came to spring camp and then signed when Garry (VanHereweghe) was the coach,” Reynolds said. “When I was 16, I didn’t have a very good training camp and I was cut. Last year, I was one of the last forwards before I got cut.”

He has made the cut and more this season. Reynolds was third on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 17 assists after the Oilers’ 4-3 victory over the Canmore Eagles Saturday night.

Reynolds is glad he’s in Okotoks — especially playing for coach Dan MacDonald, who is a minor legend in Red Deer hockey lore.

“One of the reasons I came here is because I knew Dan was coming here, and I knew he was very successful,” Reynolds said. “He had coached the AAA Midget team in Red Deer that went to nationals a couple of times.”

Reynolds has played the last two seasons playing Midget AAA in Red Deer. He said the high quality of play in the Alberta Junior A Hockey League has forced him to adapt quickly.

“It’s faster for sure,” he said. “My passing has gotten way better since I made the jump up,” Reynolds said. “It has to be better to make it in this league.”

As for the faster speed, that’s fine with him. He said his speed is his strongest attribute. Despite being one of the smaller players at 5’9’’ and 155 pounds, Reynolds gets involved in the middle of the fray.

“He plays big,” MacDonald said. “His speed and conscientiousness makes him a real presence on the ice. “He’s a very tenacious player.”

By Bruce Campbell
sports Editor, The Western Wheel

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rodger Craig in Prospects game.

An Okotoks Junior A Oiler knows it pays to listen to your minor league coaches. Rodger Craig, 17, has been selected to play for Team West at the 2008 Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game Dec. 17 in Summerland, PEI.

“All of those guys that are going are of high calibre and it will help show me where I am at,” Craig said. “It’s also an opportunity to show scouts what kind of player I am.”

Craig had both goals for Okotoks in their 4-2 loss to the Olds Grizzlys on November 28th. at the Centennial Arena. While he’s got some scoring touch, at six-foot-four, 210 pounds Craig is a menacing force when he’s parked in front of the opposition’s goalie. He is also not afraid to throw his weight around.

“I’m a grinder-type, but I put in a couple tonight,” Craig said “I like to hit, go in the corners and get the puck out. I used to score when I was a little kid, but ever since I was a Peewee, I’ve been a grinder.”

It was while playing as a Bantam that Craig met his connection to the Okotoks Junior A Oilers, but neither he nor his connection knew it at the time.
Craig’s coach while playing Bantam AAA in Red Deer was current Oilers coach/GM Dan MacDonald. “Dan is great with personal skills development,” Craig said. “He will take you out on the ice and work on individual things before the team comes out. He will also sit down with videos and show you how to improve.”

When he was approached by Oilers’ player personnel director Garry VanHereweghe and MacDonald to play in Okotoks, he jumped at the opportunity.

The Oilers coach admitted he had his former Bantam player in the back of his mind last year. “Oh for sure,” MacDonald said. “He’s strong on the puck and he’s going to be a powerful forward for us.” He said going to the Prospects Game is a great opportunity for Craig. “It’s a great adventure to be able to showcase yourself in front of NHL scouts,” MacDonald said, adding the majority of players in the Prospects’ Game will be 17 years old.

Craig has also impressed his teammates with his soft hands — not with the puck, but with tickling the ivory.

At the Oilers’ rookie gathering, the burly forward sat down at the piano.
“I just sat down and played, did some chord progressions, a little classical,” Craig said with a laugh. “It surprised a lot of the guys.”

By Bruce Campbell
sports reporter
Western Wheel local newspaper