TULSA, OK — September’s days are fading away to October, and head coach Rob Murray of the Tulsa Oilers is continuing to build his roster ahead of training camp opening next week.
This time, Murray isn’t so much focusing on returning players or seasoned veterans, but on rookies. Monday, the team announced the signings of forward Daniel Vernace and goaltender Devin Williams, along with two additional newbies with Oklahoma ties, forward Samuel Rice (University of Central Oklahoma) and forward Kyle Sharkey (Moore, OK native).
Vernace and Williams are signed to standard ECHL contracts with Tulsa, while Rice and Sharkey are being offered professional tryout contracts with the Oilers.
The 25-year-old Vernace spent the entire 2016-17 season in the Southern Professional Hockey League, where he recorded 24 points (13g, 11a) in 55 games between Evansville, Fayetteville, and Roanoke. He played 42 of those games for the expansion Rail Yard Dawgs, compiling 19 points (11g, 8a).
The North York, Ontario native picked up three assists in ten games for the Brampton Beast at the end of the 2015-16 season. Vernace played alongside current Oilers defenseman Eric Drapluk at Lake Superior State University from 2012-2016, where he had seven points (5g, 2a) in 43 games.
Williams, 21, turns pro after playing one season at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia where he went 8-4-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
From 2012-2016, the Saginaw, MI native appeared in 175 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. Williams finished his junior career with a 106-47-8 record, a 3.02 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage, with nine shutouts. He was teammates with NHL superstar Connor McDavid for three of those seasons.
Rice, 24, enters his first pro training camp after winning his second ACHA National Championship in 2016-17 at the University of Central Oklahoma. The Victoria, British Columbia native holds the Bronchos program records for games played (146), points (152), assists (83) and is second in goals (69).
Central Oklahoma also won the National Championship during Rice’s sophomore season in 2014-15.
Sharkey, 24, hails from Moore, OK and got his first taste of pro hockey at the end of last season when he tallied five points (1g, 4a) in seven games for the SPHL’s Huntsville Havoc.
The 5-foot-10, 174-pound forward played four seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he helped the Pointers win a Division 3 National Championship as a junior in 2016. In four years at UWSP, Sharkey had 133 points (58g, 75a) in 115 games.
These four players give Tulsa 20 players (17 skaters, 3 goalies) and at first blush, the Oilers appear to be well stocked heading into the 2017-18 preseason training camp.
Coach Murray recently attended the St. Louis Blues training camp and on the team’s first coaches radio program he said he is optimistic that the Blues might send him a goaltender to get minutes at some point, but declined to say if any direct effort was being made one way or the other.
The coach also spent the first weekend of September at a free agent camp in Traverse City, Michigan scouting unsigned players.