It has been an off-season full of twists and turns for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
After a fourth place finish in the AJHL’s North Division last season, the club was ousted in the second round by the Sherwood Park Crusaders in six games.
After four years at the helm, Head Coach Tom Keca and the organization decided to part ways after a contract dispute in early May.
Assistant Coach Dave Dupas took over the General Manager and Head Coaching duties and quickly added veteran coach Bob Beatty to his staff.
Dupas and Beatty made a splash on the trade market, acquiring nine players throughout July as a complete roster overhaul took place.
But come August, an opportunity arose for Dupas to move closer to his family in Kelowna, B.C. and he too would leave the organization.
Beatty was now the man in charge, a coach with over 20 years experience at the Junior A level and someone who has won three SJHL Championships as a Head Coach (Humboldt 2003, La Ronge 2010, 2011) and a National Junior A Championship title (Humboldt 2003).
Needless to say, the Barons have been left in good hands and welcomed back a pair of former Oil Barons to their coaching staff. Mike Brodeur was named the new Assistant/Goalie Coach. Brodeur was with the club from 2014-2017 and spent last season as the goalie coach of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
Then former player Justin Rose was brought in as the new Video/Strength and Conditioning Coach. Rose played for the MOB from 2009-2012 playing in 147 games & registering 128 pts. He then attended NCAA Div. 1 Northern Michigan Univ. for four years.
The Oil Barons had some big holes to fill in their roster as their top eight scorers from last season have all moved on either aging out or were a part of trades (Tyson Scott to Whitecourt & Jarred White to Sherwood Park).
That left all kinds of spots in the line-up for the new players coming in and the returning players to battle for their place.
“We want to play with some pace and certainly we’ll adapt to the hand we’re dealt,” said Beatty on the style of play he wants. “Looks like we have some good speed and skill and we’ll adapt to the appropriate system around that.”
The biggest trade the MOB made this summer was shipping forwards Chad MacLean and Nolen Coventry as well as defenceman Gunner Kinniburgh to the Lloydminster Bobcats for forwards Hunter Lamb and Logan Bromhead and defenceman Andrew Smiley.
Lamb (34 points in 55 games) and Bromhead (33 points in 61 games) were the top two scorers on the Bobcats last season and will be counted on to produce this year for the MOB.
“They’ll give us some veteran presence with Hunter (Lamb) and Logan (Bromhead) it gives us some good offensive numbers returning as they’re very skilled players,” said Beatty.
Another player the Oil Barons will look to for offence is Lucas Reeves (15 points in 25 games) who came over from the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Ty Budai (27 points in 43 games) from the Olds Grizzlys.
Two of the more interesting pieces coming to the MOB are the Johnson twins, Max and Alec who were acquired from the NOJHL’s Hearst Lumberjacks. The Minnesota pair were key pieces in the Lumberjacks championship season in 2019 and will look to replace some of the offence the MOB lost.
“Well fortunately one is a right hand defenceman (Alec) and one is a left hand forward (Max) so it’s easy to separate them on the ice,” said Beatty with a laugh when asked if he could tell them apart. “They’re very competitive, they bring a winning culture having won a championship with Hearst last year, they add grit and speed and skill, they’re certainly very competitive players.”
As for the returning players, third year defenceman Ryan Conroy looks to take another step forward and will anchor the blueline. The 18 year old is currently in Russia captaining Team AJHL in the Junior Club World Cup.
“Ryan’s going to be in a leadership capacity here, I know he’s a fan favourite. We had a chance to meet prior to him setting off to Russia with the AJHL select team, looking forward to getting him back and obviously he’s going to play a big role and be a big part of any success we have here with the Barons,” said Beatty on Conroy who was an Assistant Captain last season with the MOB.
In goal, Chris Curr will once again look to shoulder the load as the 20 year old looks to build off two strong seasons in the MOB goal. Curr has compiled a 40-17-8 record over his two years in Fort McMurray.
“I like what I see. The returning guys, there’s eight of them and I like what I see with them and we’ve got some great young talent to add to the line-up as well so there’s going to be some tough decisions come opening night,” said Beatty as the MOB gear up to play five exhibition games over the next week.
The MOB will host the Spruce Grove Saints September 6th and 7th at the Casman Centre to round out pre-season play before finalizing their roster.
Opening night for the Oil Barons is Friday September 13th when they welcome the Grande Prairie Storm to town. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased online or at the Casman Centre box office.