The Fort McMurray Oil Barons have added a huge piece just days before the season opener.
The MOB announced Monday that they have signed 1996 born forward and Fort McMurray native Brandon Ralph.
Ralph has spent the last three seasons in the Western Hockey League split between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Everett Silvertips.
“For me, it was important to return home to play for the Oil Barons in front of family and friends,” said Ralph who had 8 points in 55 games last season for the Silvertips. “As a kid, I always looked up to the Oil Barons. I remember the loud crowds at the Casman Centre and the deep playoff runs in the 2000s.”
Ralph is a Memorial Cup champion, winning the prestigious trophy in 2014 as a rookie with the Oil Kings. In 169 career WHL games, he notched 18 goals and 29 points.
“It’s always a positive when you can add a local kid with experience in the WHL,” said Head Coach and General Manager Tom Keca. “Brandon grew up watching the Oil Barons. He knows our community, the expectations we have for our players, and the role models we want our players to be for youth in our community.”
The 6’2 power forward will join a very young MOB team as he joins just three other 1996 born players on the roster (Jackson McKinstry, Jordan Steenbergen and Forbes Ploszaj).
“He’s very versatile, he can put up points, play physical, he can skate, he has the skill set to be a very good player in our league and we’re hoping we can give him the opportunity to enjoy his 20 year old year and also set him up for future hockey as well whether it’s schooling or semi-pro,” said Keca.
Adding another veteran and a player with a wealth of junior experience was a priority of Keca’s ahead of the season.
“He’s a character individual that brings a lot of experience and leadership to our young team. He’s a welcomed addition to our hockey club and we’re excited to welcome him home,” said Keca.
“It’ll be an honour to wear the Oil Barons jersey this season and to think about all of the great players that have worn that jersey before me over the years,” said Ralph.
The Oil Barons won four straight to finish the pre-season with a 4-1 record. The MOB swept a two game set with Bonnyville winning 5-3 and 7-2 before beating Lloydminster 4-3 on Saturday.
“Anytime that you can have some success whether it’s pre-season or regular season it’s always something to build on and from a coaching stand point of view and an evaluation it was great because every game was a little bit different,” said Keca.
Keca and his staff will have some tough decisions ahead of themselves as they work to finalize their roster this week. Five players have been released and sent back to their midget teams; 1999 goalie Chris Curr, 1999 defenceman Noah Kallichuk, 2000 Gunner Kinniburgh, 1999 forward Tyler Alger and 1999 Liam Freeborn.
The MOB will open the AJHL season at home on Friday against the Grande Prairie Storm. Puck drop is set for 8:00 p.m. at the Casman Centre. Tickets for the game are free and can be picked up at the Oil Barons box office or online.
The game will also be broadcasted on Country 93.3 with Taylor Pope and Bruce Ferguson beginning with the pre-game show at 7:45 p.m.
In honour of the MOB signing, here’s Ralph taking on former Oil Barons captain Tyler Dea during their time in the WHL.