|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
- Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz is living in the moment with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.
With a win in Game 5 Friday night at Rexall Place, Moroz and The Other Oil in Town can dispatch the visiting Kootenay Ice in Round 1 of the WHL Playoffs. The Oil Kings have outscored the Ice 21-3 in the series and are looking more and more like the team that captured the ‘Dub title a year ago.
"It's really fun -- the most exciting time of the year, by far," said Moroz, who's registered a pair of assists in the series so far. "We have all that experience from last season and that's only going to help us. We're never completely satisfied with how a game is played, so it pushes us all to be better and strive for bigger things.
"It's fun to be a part of this and coming to the rink every day is a blast. We're really loving it."
In addition to his quest to be crowned in the class of the League once again, Moroz's season has been a rousing success. The 18-year-old registered 13 goals and a career-high in assists (21) and points (34) in a steady third-line role.
"I didn't have as many goals this year (16) as I did last season, but I feel like I've become more of a complete player," said the 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-winger who fought eight times in the regular season. "I have so much more confidence with the puck and I've been able to become a little more dynamic in how I approach each shift; I'm able to go out and contribute all over the ice in whatever way the team needs.
"While I didn't score as much this season, I feel as though my game is better than ever. I got more assists and more points, total, than I ever have. I was able to use my body in front of the net on the power-play and really help other guys get chances to score. That was my role this year and I think I fit into it pretty nicely with Travis (Ewanyk, a fellow Oilers prospect)."
Drafted by the Oilers 32nd overall in 2012, Moroz brings balance to the cupboard. He possesses strength, toughness and the offensive flare to contribute in almost every situation. Last year's experience of a rigorous regular season, an emotional, 20-game run to the Ed Chynoweth Cup and weeklong battle at the Memorial Cup soon after put it all together.
"Last year was huge," said Moroz, "and this season has and will continue to be huge for me, too. The longer we go this year, it gives me a chance to develop even more and become the player that people expect me to be. That's what happened last year, so I'm looking to do the same this year and continue to grow."
Moroz added that the Oilers have been keeping a close eye on his progress and have been there every step of the way in helping him reach his potential.
"They don't want to over-pressure me in any way," he said. "They've been great the whole year and working with the development team has been awesome. It's really helped me along the way and it even helped having Smytty in the dressing room throughout the lockout. You learn so much from guys like that.
"I fit nice in that third-line role, so I'm not going to try and change too much. Just being disciplined all over the ice and being disciplined in my own end -- getting pucks out, getting pucks deep, crashing the net and trying to stay even or plus every game.
"That's been my goal in every game we've played all season."
That, in a nutshell, has been the key to the Oil Kings' success this season. Michael St. Croix, Dylan Wruck, Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar -- the superstars -- have been scoring, but everyone is pitching in.
"It's huge," said Moroz. "Especially in those back-to-back games that are so tiring, you need your third and fourth lines out there creating energy and taking the heat off your scorers. Any time you have contributions from everyone, it brings the energy of the whole team up and that's what we've had all season and all series."
Having the League's best goaltender doesn't hurt either. After crafting a 33-8-2-4 record in the regular season, MVP Laurent Brossoit has been lights-out in the series, posting a 0.70 goals-against average and .970 save percentage.
"It starts with LB," said Moroz. "He's been our rock back there all season. I have no doubt he'll be there for us in a big way again (Friday)."
Chances are he will be -- in which case, look out. Moroz and the Oil Kings are poised to make magic happen once more.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick