The dust has anything but settled for Edmonton native and Oil Kings defenceman Aaron Irving after returning from Calgary following the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in mid-January.
Although the 18 year-old’s team (Team Cherry) was unsuccessful in the game, he turned heads with a solid defensive performance.
Irving is tabbed as the 119th North American skater by Central Scouting, who ranked him as a ‘C’ prospect in their November update. He snagged an honourable mention on TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s list of Top 2014 Mid-Season Draft Prospects.
Irving says he tries to emulate Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks, with his style of play.
“He’s a hard working player,” he said. “He goes out and works hard every night and they say he is a though guy to play against.”
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When it comes to his own game, Irving describes himself as, ‘a pretty stay at home defenceman’.
“But when the opportunity presents itself, I like to capitalize on offensive opportunities,” he said.
Since returning to the Oil Kings from Top Prospects, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound blueliner has a goal and an assist, is +9 and has 37 penalty minutes. Irving, who was drafted ninth overall by the Oil Kings in the 2011 WHL bantam draft and spent his 16-year-old season in the AJHL where he played for the Bonnyville Pontiac, leads all Oil Kings rookies in scoring with nine goals and 21 assists in 61 games. He is ninth in WHL rookie scoring.
“It’s been a good season, “ Irving says of his first complete season in the WHL. “Going into playoffs, I’m excited. I have lots of excited confidence going in and I’m excited to see how far we can take this.”
After Irving returned from Calgary and the Top Prospects game, he joined the Oil Kings one game into what would turn into an 11-game win streak that lasted from January 17, to Februay 12, ending in a 4-3 loss to Leon Draisaitl’s Prince Albert Raiders. Irving’s fellow draft prospect Draisaitl was a part of the victorious Team Orr in Calgary. Since their loss to the Raiders in February, the Oil Kings have won 10 of their last 16 games and are currently first in the Eastern Division with a record of 49-18-2-1 in 70 games. Only two games remain in the regular season.
“It’s really important to get some momentum going into playoffs,” Irving said. “It’s going to be a really tell tale sign of what’ve got left and it’s going to be a big push and we are excited.”
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Not only does Irving have the playoffs to look forward to but this year’s NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia is looming (June 27-28)..
“As playoffs come, the more you play, the more exposure you get,” explains Irving. “(The draft is) not a big focus of mine really, if the team is performing the way I want to be performing. The longer we go, the better it is. “
With four Oil King defencemen recently drafted into the NHL (Keegan Lowe, David Musil, Mark Pysyk and Griffin Reinhart), Irving knows he is in good hands.
“I talk with the coaching staff and they’ve really instilled a lot of the mentalities that they instilled in them and it’s been a really good learning process having them come through the organization. I’m excited to be able to get the learning opportunities I am with this team.”
While the Oil Kings gear up for their playoff run at Rexall Place, Irving hopes to one day to be lacing up for another team that calls Edmonton home.
“I think every Edmonton kid has thought about playing for the Oilers and putting on the Copper and Blue,” Irving said.
But like every draft-eligible player, he would be more than happy to go to any team that selects him. However, the Oilers would be a surreal destination.
“It would be a huge dream come true and hopefully one day, I can make that a reality.”