Oil Kings

Oil Kings focus locally at draft 1
By
Gerry Moddejonge,Edmonton Sun

irving

Aaron Irving, the Edmonton Oil Kings’ first pick in Thursday’s WHL bantam draft, poses with his new jersey in the Kings’ dressing room on Friday. Irving is one of 10 members of the Southside Athletic Club selected in the draft. (Laura Pedersen, Edmonton Sun)

EDMONTON – He got his first look inside the Edmonton Oil Kings locker room on Friday, but Aaron Irving has already made his debut on the ice at Rexall Place.

Years before being selected ninth overall in the first round of the 2011 WHL bantam draft on Thursday, the defenceman enjoyed the rare experience of skating in his hometown’s big rink during a minor hockey game.

“I was about 10 or maybe a little younger, I don’t quite remember it,” said Irving, now 15. “Our team went along with another team and decided to both pitch in and have a game at Rexall. Neat experience.”

Little did he know he’d have another opportunity in Rexall one day.

“I did not think in 100 years that I’d be here,” said Irving, who was toured through the facilities on Friday. “I remember sitting in a hotel one year with my dad and my mom, we were at a Calgary tournament and we were watching the WHL on TV. My dad said, ‘Hey, Edmonton is getting a team soon. How neat would it be to play for them?’

“I never really thought it would come true.”

He’s one step closer now.

“Definitely exciting, a different experience,” Irving said. “It’s something that you’ll always remember and something that I really will treasure.

“It’s something that will never happen again.”

After all, you’re only drafted as a bantam once.

“Everyone wants to go high,” Irving said. “What I was told more is, it’s better to go to a good organization than to go No. 1 to an organization that you don’t really want to go to.

“So the Oil Kings is an ideal place to go to for me, being an Edmonton boy.”

One whose family had season tickets to this edition of the Oil Kings since Day 1.

“I like to be a big, physical player. I like to use my shot. I like to play those one-on-one battles and get the puck out,” Irving said. “It’s more fun in the offensive zone, but the defensive zone has to get taken care of first.”

Including Irving, 10 players off his league-champion Southside Athletic Club Southgate Lions squad were picked up in this year’s draft.

“A lot of them go to my school, that were drafted,” said Irving, who attends the St. Francis Xavier hockey academy.

Classmate and Lions teammate – and the son of former Edmonton Oilers player and hockey analyst Craig Simpson – Riley, was selected by the Oil Kings in the sixth round, 123rd overall.

“Talking about it, too, we’re both excited,” said Irving, who was keeping track of Thursday’s draft at school. “We had it on the screens, had it on the announcements. It was great.”

The Oil Kings went with some more locally developed talent this year, also drafting Sherwood Park’s Brett Pollock (fifth round, 97th overall) along with Leduc’s Trevor Posch (eighth round, 163rd).

“It’s not our focus, but it’s a nice perk,” Oil Kings general manager Bob Green said of the homegrown talent. “This is a great area that produces a lot of talent, not only in the Western Hockey League, but the National Hockey League.

“It’s something for us to be here. I’m not going to say we pay more attention to it, but when it comes to training camp and that type of thing, we are able to get more kids from the area because it’s easier for them, it’s closer, it’s a little less expensive.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca