After a 30-year absence from the Western Hockey League, the wait will be over on Thursday.
When the Edmonton Oil Kings announce their selection for the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, the first player in the franchise’s new history will be crowned.
The WHL draft lottery was held back on March 22, resulting in the Oil Kings being awarded the third overall selection in the first round. The Portland Winter Hawks ball in the lottery was drawn first, giving the Winter Hawks the first overall selection in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft. The Kelowna Rockets, based on their position in the overall 2006-07 WHL Regular Season standings, will receive the second pick in the first round.
"We are pleased with the players who we expect to be available to us with the third pick", said Oil Kings General Manager Bob Green.
Edmonton will have the first pick in the second and each subsequent round of the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft with Portland following up with the second pick.
Players eligible for the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft will be 1992-born players who reside in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
"The Bantam draft is obviously huge to our future on-ice success. Our goal as a franchise is to build a team that can compete for league championships and Memorial Cups, and it starts with this Thursday's draft", said Green.
Next on the agenda for the Oil Kings will be their spring evaluation camp. From May 18 to 20, prospective Oil Kings players will take the ice for the first time and go through several drills as the team gets set to assemble itself for 2007-08.
The camp will be held at Servus Place in St. Albert and is open to fans who want to get their first glimpse at future Oil Kings.
Several weeks later, on June 5, is the Expansion Draft. WHL clubs can protect 15 players over the age of 16 with those younger in age automatically protected. The Oil Kings will then see who's available out of the remaining unprotected players and begin to piece together their team from there.
"We expect to be able to pick up a good mix of veteran players with excellent leadership abilities and character, as well as some quality young players who maybe just get caught in a bit of a numbers game", remarked Green. The team has been going through a number of different scenarios in preparation for the expansion draft.
The final piece to the puzzle when it comes to assembling the roster this offseason is on June 27 when the Oil Kings have the first pick overall in the CHL Import Draft. The draft consists of all three leagues - WHL, OHL and QMJHL - with each team picking twice.
One advantage the Oil Kings have over some other clubs is the ability to use Oilers European scouting resources. It should prove to be beneficial given that CHL teams often rely on second-hand information when drafting Europeans.
"The Import Draft is a great opportunity for us to pick up one or two high end players who can help our team immediately. We are really excited with some of the possibilities out there right now", Green said.
With the quality of players available to the Oil Kings through the Bantam Draft, Expansion Draft and Import Draft, Green is optimistic that the team will be competitive in its inaugural season.
"Expansion teams typically struggle a bit in their first year, but based on the players we expect to be available our team should be fairly competitive", he said.
Another item on the agenda is a head coach, which should be announced within the next month.
"We have a lot of great candidates right now for the Head Coaching position. Right now we are just making sure that we do our due diligence before hiring someone who will be a huge part of our future success".Oil Kings Website