Calgary, Alta. – For the third consecutive season and sixth time in modern franchise history, the Edmonton Oil Kings are WHL Central Division Champions.
The presentation of the WHL Central Division Championship Trophy represents an unprecedented campaign in the Central Division, which included rigorous protocols to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and officials involved. Ongoing testing for COVID-19 was conducted with a total of 2,219 tests for COVID-19 revealing only one positive case in the WHL’s Central Division from February 12 through May 4.
“The 2020-21 WHL Season will enter the history books unlike any season prior,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “The WHL commends all players, staff, and officials, who sacrificed their normal way of life to participate in the WHL Central Division Regular Season and play with the same fierce competitiveness that is renowned with the Western Hockey League.
“In such a unique and challenging season as this, it is important to recognize the accomplishments of our teams and we are pleased to present the Edmonton Oil Kings with the WHL Central Division Championship Trophy.”
With a record of 19-2-0-1 and 39 points through 22 games, the Edmonton Oil Kings have clinched the WHL Central Division with one game remaining on the schedule. In this the final week of the Central Division schedule, no team has scored more than the Oil Kings, who racked up an impressive 101 goals for in 22 games (4.59 goals per game). On the defensive side, the Oil Kings were also the stingiest team in the Central Division, allowing a mere 41 goals against in 22 games (1.86 goals against per game).
This represents the third consecutive Central Division title for the Oil Kings, and the second time in modern franchise history that the Club has strung together three consecutive Central Division crowns. The Oil Kings previously enjoyed three straight Central Division titles from 2011-12 through 2013-14. As Central Division champions at the conclusion of the abbreviated 2019-20 WHL Regular Season, the Oil Kings went 42-16-6-4 (94 points). In 2018-19, the Club went 42-18-4-4 (92 points) and advanced all the way to the WHL’s Eastern Conference Championship Series before being knocked out by the eventual WHL Champion Prince Albert Raiders.
The Oil Kings defeated every other team in the Central Division at least once throughout the 2020-21 campaign. The high-powered offense of the Oil Kings was fuelled by St. Louis Blues prospect Jake Neighbours, who leads the team in scoring with 33 points (9G-24A) in 19 games. Prior to joining Canada for the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championship, 2021 NHL Draft prospect Dylan Guenther was a key cog in the Oil Kings offense as well, registering 24 points (12G-12A) in only 12 games.
Neighbours, a 19-year-old product of Airdrie, Alta., was selected by the Blues in the first round (26th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He has been a mainstay for the Oil Kings since the 2017-18 campaign after being selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2016 WHL Draft.
Led by Guenther, the Oil Kings rolled out a strong contingency of Edmonton-area players, each of which contributed to the Club’s climb to the top of the Central Division. Forwards Liam Keeler and Carter Souch both hail from Edmonton, with Brendan Kuny from nearby Ardrossan, Alta. On the blueline, Edmonton’s Matt Smith debuted as a rookie, while Sherwood Park’s Matthew Robertson and Logan Dowhaniuk once again provided a steadying presence.
In addition to Neighbours, the Oil Kings were buoyed by the veteran presence of Robertson, a prospect of the New York Rangers. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound 20-year-old has recorded 21 points (4G-17A) in 21 games, along with a plus-24 rating.
While Guenther was a force on offense, fellow 2021 NHL Draft prospect Sebastian Cossa provided the backbone in the blue paint. Projected to go in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-6 product of Fort McMurray, Alta., has gone 16-1-0-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and three shutouts.
Behind the bench, 2019-20 WHL Coach of the Year Brad Lauer was once again the master of the game plan, while President of Hockey Operations/General Manager Kirt Hill continues to build upon the quality depth assembled over the previous years.
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.