By Sam Laskaris
Jesse Roach is hoping to provide plenty of leadership for the Edmonton Oil Kings during the 2017-18 season. But even though the 20-year-old, who is part Ojibwe, has three years of experience in the Western Hockey League, Roach is not guaranteed a spot with the Oil Kings for the upcoming campaign.
That’s because he is currently one of four overage players that the Edmonton squad is expected to invite to its training camp.
WHL clubs can commence their season with more than three overagers on their roster, but only a maximum of three can play in a game.
Teams must then trim their rosters and carry a maximum of three overagers (players born in 1997), for the coming season by mid-October.
If no additional moves are made during the off-season, the overage candidates expected to attend the Oil Kings’ training camp are Roach, forwards Adam Berg and Colton Kehler and goaltender Patrick Dea.
Roach said Edmonton’s coaching staff did not give players any indication of what they were planning to do with their overagers next year.
“They said have a good summer and come into camp to go compete for one of those three spots,” he said.
Roach, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound right winger, is currently in his hometown of Quesnel, B.C. He returned to the west coast after the Oil Kings had their season come to an end in March.
Roach and his teammates had their share of struggles during the season. They compiled a disappointing 23-43-5-1 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
“It was a rebuilding year,” Roach said. “We had a really young team.”
Roach said it was obvious following some transactions that the club’s brass was building for the future.
“We traded away our two leading scorers,” he said. “We knew that was the path we were going to take.”
As a result, the Oil Kings had their share of growing pains during the season.
“But I thought we really turned a corner by the end of the year,” Roach said.
The Oil Kings were able to conclude their campaign on an upbeat note, winning their final three regular season outings. This included a 5-4 overtime triumph versus the visiting Red Deer Rebels in their season finale on March 19.
On a personal note, Roach did not enjoy a certain chunk of the season. That’s because he ended up breaking his left hand in an awkward fall during an early November road game versus Manitoba’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
“At first I thought I had just jammed my hand,” he said. “But it wasn’t getting any better. When we got back to Edmonton I had an MRI three or four days later. That’s when I found out it was broken.”
The injury sidelined Roach for almost three months.
“It was a pretty big setback,” said Roach, whose father Bill is from the Garden River First Nation in northern Ontario. “I wanted the year to be a big year for me.”
Roach, who is primarily a defensive forward, appeared in 42 games of the Oil Kings’ 72 regular season contests. He earned four points, including a pair of goals.
Roach had joined the Oil Kings’ organization early on during the 2015-16 season, via a trade with the Vancouver Giants. He had also spent his WHL rookie season, 2014-15, with the Giants.
Besides playing one final year in the WHL, preferably in Edmonton, Roach is also eyeing a pro career.
He has never been drafted by a National Hockey League club, but he does have a bit of an edge over other North American players who are thinking of playing professionally overseas.
His mother Elfriede was born in Germany, entitling him to get a European passport.
If a decent North American offer were not to materialize, Roach is already thinking of trying his luck in the Duetsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top pro league.
His 23-year-old brother Alex spent a portion of this season with a club in Berlin. The elder Roach, who played his WHL days with the Calgary Hitmen, bounced around three different squads in the East Coast Hockey League the past couple of seasons before heading to Germany.
Since their mother was born in the European country, the Roach brothers are not considered as imports for teams in the German league. Import spots are usually given to higher-profile players from North America.
“That’s huge for me, not being an import,” said Jesse Roach, adding he’s had numerous conversations with his brother and is confident he too would be able to crack the roster of a German pro team.