WHL Next Generation is a 22-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through September 11, get the inside scoop on the incoming crew of 16-year-olds.
The Robertson family and the Edmonton Oil Kings have a long history together.
For the past four years, recent WHL graduate Tyler Robertson has been a mainstay with the Oil Kings’ offensive corps.
Now, as Tyler departs for the next chapter of his hockey career, Oil Kings fans could have the chance to see his younger brother, Matthew, continue the family tradition with the red, gold and blue, albeit in a slightly different position.
“When I was younger you’d always want someone to go against when we were just skating on the outdoor rinks and stuff and I just decided to go defense when we were really young,” Matthew recalled. “Ever since then I’ve just really loved playing defense.”
Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 181 pounds, the big puck moving defenseman was more than a little excited to be drafted by his brother’s old team.
“It was almost mesmerizing. Knowing that my brother had played there for four years and before that we billeted players from them. It was just crazy how the luck turned out that way,” Matthew said of being taken by the Oil Kings in the first round, seventh overall at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
“It’s just like joining a legacy, almost, of all the great players that played there. To get to have the honour to play there and represent something larger than the sole individual.”
— Edmonton Oil Kings (@EdmOilKings) 5 May 2016
While Matthew won’t be able to play a full season with his brother due to their difference in age, the pair were able to share the ice for the first – and possibly only – time in their hockey careers when the younger Robertson was called up for a seven-game stint with the Oil Kings last season.
The then-15-year-old even notched his first WHL assist during his time with the big club.
“It was really good just to get my boots a little bit wet and know what it’s like to play at the next level against really good players and just kind of know where I might fit in this year,” Matthew said.
When he wasn’t playing with the Oil Kings last year, the Sherwood Park, Alta. product spent his time patrolling the blue line for the Sherwood Park AAA Kings of the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
Robertson posted 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 29 regular season games and added another three assists in eight playoff contests with the Kings last year.
“It was a confidence builder. Helped me work on different skills that I had to work on to get to the next level and just improve on certain areas,” he said of his first year of Midget.
Now, the 16-year-old is looking to keep building on that confidence as he makes the transition into the WHL this season.
“I think I’ll fit in as more of a two-way defensemen and I’ll just have to work my way up with more confidence and work my way up through the lineup,” he said, adding that he has been working on his skating and his physical strength over the offseason.
The young gun said he’s been doing off ice training five days a week and, during the last month, he’s been skating one to two times a day.
And now that he’s in the thick of things at Oil Kings training camp, Robertson is going to do everything in his power to make sure he sticks with the team come opening night.
“Just come in, play fast, aggressive and with lots of confidence.”
Robertson and the Oil Kings open the 2017 WHL Pre-Season on Sept. 1 when they take on the Prince George Cougars at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer.
They will make their home ice debut on Sept. 10 when they host the Calgary Hitmen at the Downtown Community Arena in Edmonton. Puck drop is at 4 p.m.