By Remy Greer
Okotoks Western Wheel
“Kyle Krabben thriving with Oilers since WHL cut”
The latest Okotoks Junior A Oilers acquisition is enjoying a new lease on his Junior hockey life.
Kyle Krabben survived training camp with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Kootenay Ice and dressed in two regular season games before being released by the team on Oct. 3. Unsure of where to turn, Krabben found familiarity and opportunity in the form of the Okotoks Oilers.
“A couple of days passed, and it was a tough ride home (Calgary) for sure and coming back I didn’t want to see anybody, but I tried to look out for Junior teams and luckily I got a call from (Oilers head coach) James Poole,” said Krabben, Kootenay’s sixth round pick in the 2010 Bantam Draft. “That gave me some hope that if I can’t make Kootenay I’m going to come back and do the best I can here in Okotoks.”
Krabben said he had another opportunity to continue on in the WHL with the Regina Pats.
“Apparently they needed a couple defencemen,” Krabben said. “But I came (to Okotoks) for camp and already met the veterans and thought it was a good idea to come back.”
The 17-year-old knows a lot of the youngsters in Okotoks too. He was a teammate of fellow-Oilers rookies Drew Weich, Colton Sheen and John Edwardh with the Midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes last season.
“All the 95s and a couple of the 94s I already knew so it was definitely easy to come back and fit in,” said Krabben, now a Grade 12 student at Holy Trinity Academy in Okotoks. “And it makes for a fun year.”
As a result of seeing both exhibition and two games of regular season action with Kootenay and signing a WHL player agreement, a document which earmarks scholarship money towards Canadian university for alumni who do not make the professional ranks, Krabben is no longer eligible for an NCAA scholarship.
“We’re taking it day by day, me and my parents are seeking options and the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) looks pretty good,” Krabben said. “I would love to possibly stick here because there’s a good core group of guys, it looks like we could have a good team a couple years down the road and even this year we’re picking up our game.”
Krabben said the Junior A game allows more room for skill to shine than in the WHL.
“It was a different style of game, it was a lot more strict, there was a lot bigger guys and a more physical game,” Krabben said of the WHL. “Coming back here it fits my game better and I get along with the guys and we’re a really tight knit group.”
The premium put on puck-movement and transitional hockey with the Oilers suits the 17-year-old blueliner just fine.
“Guys are really fast here, it’s a lot more of a smarter game I feel from when I played up (in Cranbrook),” he said. “I think it’s more fun to play here.”
Despite his short stay in Cranbrook, Krabben said there were many values he took from his time with the Ice from professionalism to performance.
“I definitely learned to be more consistent with my game,” he said. “And my confidence level definitely shot up a lot, coming back from there and knowing that I can play at that level and make the guys I’m on the ice with here better.”
Krabben’s arrival on the Oilers’ backend was a piece of news Poole was not banking on.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” said Poole, who thought Krabben was a bubble player at the WHL level. “But he’s a good young player and he’s helped us pretty good so far.”
The disappointment of a short-stint at the Major Junior level has not affected Krabben’s commitment to his new team, Poole said.
“He’s well liked by our team and I think a lot of the kids already knew him so he fits into our team dynamic well,” Poole said. “He’s motivated because he still has that opportunity to possibly go back to the WHL the following season.
“He could end up being a one-year player (with the Oilers), but he fits into what we’re doing”.
Finding a defence cohort for Krabben on the Oilers has not been a challenge.
The Calgary native formed an effective partnership on the Buffaloes’ backend with Weich in Midget and they have renewed the partnership in Okotoks.
“We were kind of unstoppable last year,” Krabben said. “We played shutdown against most of the other team’s top lines and still ended up with the top plus-minus on our team.
“We’ve always had that chemistry, we used to play Minor-Midget together and I love the guy and it just kind of clicked,” he said.
The 17-year-old Calgarian has experience playing with every 1995-born player on the Okotoks roster. All seven of the Oiler players born in 1995 were part of an all-star team coached by Poole at the Chowder Cup, a marquee exhibition tournament held annually in Marlborough, Mass. in the summer of 2011.
“It really had nothing to do with recruiting, it was a group that put together high level 1995 players and they got me to coach,” said Poole who has five rookies and two second-year forwards from the tournament now with the Oilers. “That’s where we got to know these players really well. It was a good experience and I felt comfortable bringing these kids into our program.”