There are obvious benefits to being a part of the playoff push put on by the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The players get to experience winning, while the team and organization gain prestige and respect from the junior hockey world. For five draft eligible players on the Oil Kings roster, an extended season with added exposure can help boost their stock.
Ashton Sautner is one of those players who stand to benefit from playing hockey in April and May.
The defenseman is enjoying a fine rookie season in Edmonton, garnering 12 points in 59 games along with a stellar +29 rating. In the playoffs he has contributed two assists while continuing his strong defensive play, earning a plus-8 rating.
Throughout the year his play improved, and during the final stretch of the regular season he was paired with the much-heralded Griffin Reinhart on the team’s second defensive unit.
And while scouts have keyed in on Reinhart’s strong play in the playoffs, it’s hard not to notice the contributions of Sautner.
“I’ve been playing with Griffin [Reinhart] for 20 games here and the playoffs too. We’ve really bonded well together and I feel that we have each other’s back, and it’s good to have a guy like that with you on the back end because you know you have someone to get the puck too all the time,” Sautner said.
Playing on a team with the skill and success of the Edmonton Oil Kings is something the six-foot-one, 185-pound Sautner appreciates.
“It’s been a really fun year for me coming from midget hockey,” Sautner said. “We have an unbelievable team this year and we can go far.”
He is also aware of its affects on who will call his name in Pittsburgh.
“As far as the draft, I try not to worry about it. I go out every night and try and play my own game and just put the draft behind me. The longer we go in the playoffs the more we get looked at.”
With the WHL Finals against the Portland Winterhawks set to start on May 3, there will be even more opportunity for Sautner to show off to scouts.
A plus-29 rating is not an accident, nor is the fact that Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal has paired him with Reinhart while relying on the pair to shut down the WHL’s many talented forwards.
While Sautner may not be the most prominent name on the Oil Kings blueline, his quiet, sturdy defensive play will warrant a wonderful journey from the stands to the stage of the CONSOL Energy Center this summer.