By Tyler King
The Oil Barons made a major acquisition this past weekend, but it might be better phrased as a re-acquisition, as 6’4” defenceman Tyler Dea became the latest member of the MOB, after being a late cut from the Saskatoon Blades roster of the WHL.
Dea had played 7 games for the Oil Barons as a 17-year old in the 2012-13 season, before being returned to his minor hockey team in St. Albert. Last season, he split time in the WHL between Prince Albert and Saskatoon, and says his choice to come to Fort McMurray centred heavily on the team’s long-standing reputation.
“It’s a winning team,” he said. “In all reality, being in Saskatoon, we didn’t win a lot of games last year, so to know I’m coming back to a team that’s going to win a lot of hockey games this year, I feel good about that.“
Dea had his options; after being released by the Barons two years ago, he suited up as an affiliate player with the Sherwood Park Crusaders for a few games later in the season, but neither team retained his rights, making Dea effectively a free agent at this level.
“I was sort of waiting around, getting phone calls, and hadn’t gotten one from here yet, but in the back of my mind I thought – wouldn’t it be cool to go back where it started?” Dea recalled. “Then, I got the phone call and things sort of just started snowballing from there. We started talking about the team, and the direction the organization was going in this year, and it just sounded great.”
“That was the nice thing; I didn’t get to go to Saskatoon but I did get to choose where I got to play, and so this, for me, is the best place I think for me to play. I feel like I can contribute and I feel like we’ll have a chance to go far.”
There aren’t too many faces left over from Dea’s brief early season tenure with the MOB, but what familiar folks are left are definitely making the transition easier for the big defenceman.
“To be able to chat, and have familiar faces like [trainer] Petey [Spiers], [assistant coach] Ryan [Allen], [Adam] Durkee and [Zach] Wittenburg,” he recalled, “I chatted with Durkee a little bit when I started talking to Fort McMurray, and he let me know what the situation was.”
“I also talked to guys like [Saskatoon head scout] Doug Molleken and [Saskatoon assistant coach] Dean Brockman, and different guys who have been around the Junior A ranks, and they all gave me good pieces of advice about coming here, and they thought it would be a really good fit for me, so to not only hear that from the coach trying to get you here, but from other people who don’t really have anything to do with the team, is always nice to hear.”
Dea will help anchor a back end that is extremely young for the Oil Barons this year, with just one 1994-born veteran in Zach Wittenburg (who coincidentally made his junior A debut the same year as Dea). With an automatic berth in the Western Canada Cup and a clear shot at an appearance in the RBC Cup national championship, Dea says the team’s playoff potential was a major reason for his return.
“I didn’t know they were hosting it before they contacted me, and as soon as they told me – not to say it sort of really pushed my decision – but I was on a team last year that, after I got there, we only won three games to finish the season,” he said. “I’ve been part of teams in my minor hockey life that won all the time, so to get to come to an organization that’s got a really good chance of doing something special, that’s huge.”
That potential to do something special will definitely be buoyed by the acquisition of the WHL veteran d-man. But don’t expect head coach and GM Curtis Hunt to be finished tinkering with the final composition of his roster just yet.
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