After losing game 6 in the second round of the AJHL playoffs to the Drayton Valley Thunder, Fort McMurray Oil Barons Head Coach and General Manager Adam Manah is gearing up for a busy offseason.
With the season ending Tuesday, Mar. 29, Manah gave the players Wednesday off before conducting exit interviews with each individual for the next two days.
“For the 20-year-olds that are moving on, it’s kind of a goodbye, and to thank them for everything,” said Manah.
“Then for the guys returning, what they need to focus on in terms of where they need to head with their development, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice, and knowing what they need to accomplish, so we can hit the ground running come August.”
Oil Barons captain Tyler Wallace, who is committed to play hockey at Niagra University in New York, is set to return next year for the Oil Barons. Manah said that Niagra representatives were at game 3 vs Drayton Valley and laid out their plan for the captain.
“They want him to stay up for one more year, be the leader and captain that he is, get the minutes and the touches that are required, and then go into their (Niagra’s) lineup as an impactful guy.”
In terms of growth and building on the future, Manah says they have a good core to build on for next year, but need to get creative with their roster when it comes to their 20-year-olds.
“You can only carry six 20-year-olds on your roster and I believe we have 11 or 12 that are eligible to return.”
Manah mentions the likes of forwards Wallace, Max McCoy, Tristan Kimmen, and Ryder Matter to lead the team upfront; with an experienced defensive core consisting of Braden Miller, Chris Kobelka, Simon Diaz, Brady Brenner, and Alex Izyk.
Homegrown goaltender and Oil Barons Playoff MVP Gabe Gratton will lead the charge on the back end for next year.
“He played a terrific rookie season, being an 18-year-old and stepping into this league isn’t easy,” explained Manah about the Oil Barons regular season rookie of the year.
He went on to say you never had to worry about Gratton’s preparation for games.
“He’s so dialed in, he does everything you want (out of a player), not letting anything rattle him, but probably his best attribute is that he is so calm in there and that he is very good technically. Grats was the guy we leaned on (in the playoffs) and I know he wanted that responsibility, so credit goes to him and he was one of our standouts.”
As for what the team needs to add this upcoming year, Manah wants a little more finish around the net and some guys that aren’t afraid to stir it up in the crease and be hard to play against.