Grayson Pawlenchuk couldn’t believe his luck when the Oilers came calling.
In fact, the veteran of 211 WHL games wasn’t sure he’d even get another shot at the NHL, let alone don the colours of his childhood team.
But that will all change this weekend when the Red Deer Rebels 20-year-old forward will get his chance to suit up for the Edmonton Oilers at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C.
“I just want to show them what I’m capable of,” said the the six-foot, 186-pound left winger. “I want to bring my best game there and hope to earn a spot in their organization.”
“It’s a great organization so I’m just trying to get into it somehow, if I can show what I can, that’s what I’m trying to get out of it.”
Pawlenchuk, who is originally from Ardrossan, was injured most of last season. Last year, Pawlenchuk skated with the Dallas Stars at their tournament in Traverse City, Mich., but didn’t last beyond that.
He was then injured in December last season and only played 19 games for the Rebels. He played in late March but did not return for the playoffs. With that long a layoff, the gritty winger wasn’t sure how his body would react until he hit the ice with Red Deer last week.
“At the start of the year, I was bit worried with having so long between games,” said Pawlenchuk said. He said playing scrimmages, the black and white game and exhibition games will definitely help.
“The games in Penticton will probably be a faster pace, but I think I’m ready for it and I should be fine. Once you settle into the game, the nerves settle down too.”
It’ll be a reunion of sorts for Pawlenchuk and a few of his former Rebels teammates in Penticton as well. Evan Polei, Austin Strand and Austin Glover, who all played for Red Deer at various times last season, will join Pawlenchuk for the tournament.
Entering his final season in the WHL, with a chance to wear an Edmonton Oilers jersey is a thrill he could hardly even quantify after a year of hard luck, said Pawlenchuk.
“This is my last year I can play in Red Deer so there are a lot bigger stakes,” he said. “With me going to Edmonton too and trying to prove what I can. With it being the hometown (team), that’s pretty special and makes a big difference.”
Edmonton will play the Calgary Flames, the Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Canucks at the rookie tournament from Sept. 8-11.
Other Rebels who will attend NHL rookie tournaments include Lane Zablocki (Detroit Red Wings), Brandon Hagel (Buffalo Sabres), Ethan Sakowich (Boston Bruins) and Kristian Reichel (Winnipeg Jets). Red Deer native Luke Coleman, who plays for the Calgary Hitmen is also on the Oilers rookie tournament roster.