High profile collegiate hockey programs continue to be populated by Oilers.
The Okotoks Oilers announced a trio of impressive commitments to NCAA Division I powerhouse schools with Brayden Morrison heading to Wisconsin, Jack Works to the University of Denver and Louis Jamernik finding the perfect fit at North Dakota.
“Not only do they have the top hockey program, but they have aviation and I want to be a commercial pilot,” said Jamernik, a 2000 born centre from Calgary. “And they have the best one in the nation as well so it was kind of a no-brainer.
“There are only five schools in Div. I hockey that have that, my list was pretty limited so it was perfect.”
Jamernik said he was watched by the Fighting Hawks scouts for the first half of this season and got a boost when he earned an invite to Team Canada West’s evaluation camp for the World Junior A Challenge.
“It’s a thousand-pound weight lifted off me,” Jamernik said of the commitment. “It’s been a goal of mine since I was 15, it’s amazing for me and I’m really thankful.”
The Fighting Hawks are the top ranked team in the NCAA and have a long history with the Oilers.
Jamernik got tremendous feedback on life as a student athlete in Grand Forks from former Oilers defenceman and Team Canada World Junior gold-medallist Jacob Bernard-Docker, a second year blueliner at North Dakota.
“I grew up with Jacob,” Jamernik said. “He just said it’s the best place to be, the rink is awesome, the coaches are amazing, they're personal people and actually care about you.”
Morrison took three campus visits at Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin before landing on the latter.
The 2002-born forward has hockey pedigree in his back pocket as the son of former NHLer Brendan Morrison, who was a collegiate star for at Michigan where he won the Hobey Baker Award in 1997.
“The campus there is right between two lakes, it’s a pretty awesome campus, the rink is really cool there,” said Morrison of the Wisconsin visit. “You’ve got the basketball team, a whole bunch of athletes there, the girls team all hanging out at the rink. It’s a really special place.”
The Badgers are one of the highest profile teams in the NCAA, particularly this season with a highly touted rookie class that features first-round picks Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte along with former Oiler Dylan Holloway.
“Dylan was my student host so I went down and hung out with him the whole time,” said Morrison, a Grade 12 student at Holy Trinity Academy. “I played hockey with him in Peewee and here (in Okotoks) a little bit.
“He said it’s super special, you’re sort of the man on campus and everyone knows who you are down there and it’s just being at the rink every day with the guys, working to get better and make the next step.”
Morrison has 20 points in 33 games with Okotoks during a freshman campaign he said has been greatly assisted by his extensive time spent with the club last year as an affiliate from the AAA Calgary Flames.
Works, Okotoks’ leading scorer with 25 goals and 54 points, caught the eye of one of the top programs in the NCAA, the eight-time national champions University of Denver Pioneers.
“I had a few different schools that were on me and Denver kind of came out of nowhere and offered me,” said Works, who plans to study business at the university. “There were a couple that were kind of in the mix, but it was pretty easy to pick Denver.
“I flew down there and the room and everything was just so nice, they have a good culture, I watched their practice and they all look like they’re working hard and having fun.”
The Pioneers compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association against the likes of Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota. St. Cloud State and Colorado College. Denver most recently won the NCAA title in 2017, a team that featured Oilers graduate Tariq Hammond on defence.
“It’s kind of a distraction sometimes,” Works said of committing. “You try to put it away, but it’s in your head sometimes and it’s a lot easier to just relax and play now.”
All three forwards — Works, Morrison and Jamernik — are slated to make the jump to the NCAA for the 2021-22 season.
The Oilers also announced over the holiday break that star netminder Ashton Abel had joined the Boston University Terriers for their second half of the 2019-20 season.
Abel, a 20-game winner in his tenure with Okotoks, is the first Oilers alumnus to land a commitment at the storied university in the Hockey East Conference.
For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca