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Oil Kings vs Kootenay Ice - First Round Preview

The Oil Kings kick off their opening round series against the Kootenay Ice tonight at Rexall Place.

Tonight the Edmonton Oil Kings start the journey towards what they hope will end with a second consecutive Ed Chynoweth Cup - the trophy awarded to the WHL Champion - a couple of months from now. That journey starts on home ice against their first round opponent, the Kootenay Ice. The defending WHL Champions didn't suffer any sort of championship hangover this season, securing top spot in the WHL's Eastern Conference, They enter the playoffs ranked as the fourth best team in the country with a 51-15-2-4 record. The team's 51 wins and 108 points both top the franchise best marks set just last season.

By the Numbers: A matchup between first and eighth is almost always a mismatch but the Ice managed to split the season series with Edmonton winning all three of the games played in Cranbrook (obviously the Oil Kings won all three games played in Edmonton) so this series could well be a lot closer than some might expect. That said, a look at the numbers this series looks like it should be a blowout. A reminder with the league rankings, there are 22 teams in the WHL.

Edmonton Oil Kings Kootenay Ice
Record 51-15-2-4 35-35-2-0
Goals For 278 4th 203 16th
Goals Against 155 1st 221 9th
Differential 123 3rd -18 13th
Power Play 28.6% 1st 19.2% 13th
Penalty Kill 87.5% 2nd 77.6% 16th

Who To Watch on Edmonton: The Oil Kings, not surprisingly, have a pretty stacked lineup, one that includes nine players selected in the NHL draft over the last two seasons. Included in that group of nine are Travis Ewanyk, Martin Gernat, David Musil, and Mitch Moroz, all four of the Oilers prospects currently playing in the WHL all together in one convenient package. The Oil Kings also have a couple of players who will likely go in the first few rounds of this seasons draft in Curtis Lazar who is ranked 11th among skaters by ISS and Tristan Jarry, the team's backup, who is the third highest ranked goalie.

Who To Watch on Kootenay: Where the Oil Kings have nine draftees, the Ice have zero. Same goes for players ranked highly by the ISS, the Ice have zero. But that doesn't mean there aren't players worth keeping an eye on. The guy to really watch is Sam Reinhart. With 35 goals and 50 assists Reinhart finished as Kootenay's leading scorer and 17th overall in the WHL. With numbers like those you might wonder why he isn't ranked in the ISS Top 30. The answer is because with a November birth date he won't be eligible for the draft until after the 2014 season.

Key Matchup: Kootenay is going to rely heavily on Reinhart to carry them offensively but the Oil Kings have a Reinhart of their own that they can counter with, team captain, Griffin Reinhart. Sam's elder brother was selected fourth overall by the Islanders last summer (the oldest brother, Max, is a Flames prospect) and was part of Canada's World Junior team over the Christmas season. If Kootenay is going to have any real chance of pulling off an upset in this series they will almost certainly need to have the better Reinhart.

Schedule: None of the games in the series are televised so the options for those unable to attend are listening to the games on the Team 1260 or going the pay route and tuning in on WHL Live.

Friday March 22 @ Edmonton 7:00 PM
Sunday March 24 @ Edmonton 4:00 PM
Tuesday March 26 @ Kootenay 7:00 PM
Wednesday March 27 @ Kootenay 7:00 PM
Friday March 29 @ Edmonton 7:00 PM *if necessary
Sunday March 31 @ Kootenay 6:00 PM *if necessary
Tuesday April 2 @ Edmonton 7:00 PM *if necessary

Prediction: Kootenay has had some success against the Oil Kings this season but I doubt that will translate to a series win this season. I think the teams will come back to Edmonton for Game 5 but it won't last beyond that. Oil Kings win in five games.