While the Oilers surged through the final two months of last season, one of their top prospects was also experiencing a resurgence in Springfield.
In the final 20 games of his first pro season, Viacheslav Trukhno tallied 18 points, helping him finish sixth on the Falcons leaderboard and among the top 30 AHL rookies. From late February to late-March, "Slava" posted 16 points over a 12-game point streak, setting the standard for all League first-years and good for fifth longest point streak among all AHL skaters.
But as the Falcons failed to make the playoffs, the Russian winger's skills were sidelined for the summer. Now that he’s back on the ice and participating in the Oil Country Rookie Tournament, he says that the off-season was off-putting.
“I think the summer was way too long this year. . . It’s hard to stay focused when you’re away from the rink for so long, so it feels really good to be back on the ice and playing with the guys.”
Many of those guys were his Falcons teammates, including fellow forwards Ryan O’Marra and Colin McDonald. Another familiar face belongs to Jeff Truitt, who was promoted from Falcons Assistant Coach to Head Coach this summer and is coaching the Oilers rookies this week.
According to Truitt, Trukhno’s development last season can be credited to increased confidence.
“The first half of the season, as any young guy, he was just feeling his way through a little bit. He really took a real step confidence-wise the second half of the season, and of course when you score, things kind of come better and quicker and you get more positive and you get more enthusiastic.”
“ We counted on him to do some offensive things for us,” Truitt continues. “I really thought that he took some real giant steps forward with his confidence and just being reliable on the ice, both offensively and defensively.”
Sunday night’s prospect game in Camrose between the Oilers and Flames marked Trukhno’s first competition of the upcoming season, and though he admits to being a bit “rusty,” he’s confident his performance will only improve.
“It’s been a while since we played last, it’s been like four months, so I was a bit rusty,” the Oilers fourth-round pick in the 2005 Draft says. “I think it will get better tomorrow (Tuesday night vs. the Canucks rookies in Camrose). I think that once you get the first game out of the way, you feel more confident. It will be a different game.”
Truitt is impressed by Trukhno’s effort in Rookie Camp so far, especially his chemistry with linemates O’Marra and Jordan Eberle in the Flames game.
“Obviously, you’ve got young Jordan Eberle who’s a great player and Trukhno who put up some great numbers for us last year in Springfield,” the coach says. “There’s good offensive upside there so we’re hoping they’re going to generate that way.”
Trukhno shares the Coach’s enthusiasm. “They’re great guys to play with. O’Marra, I played with him last year and I really liked it, and Jordan, in those two practices we had, he’s been really good.”
With confidence and a year of pro experience on his side, the young winger is primed to impress Oilers brass but he’s also quick to thank those who helped him get his game to its current level.
“Throughout the year I learned a lot and I think Kelly Buchberger helped me a lot, just to work harder to just realize what I have to do,” Trukhno says. “I think the coaching staff just made me realize how I have to play, and obviously with confidence, you start making good plays and confidence always goes up.”