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
Western Wheel local newspaper