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Pumpjacks at work pumping crude oil near Stettler, Alta., June 20, 2007. Alberta's oil pipeline hub, where millions of barrels of crude flow each day to pipelines that feed markets in Canada and the United States is a beehive of activity. Analysts expect many Canadian oil sands companies to surge, most notably Whitecap Resources.Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press

The oil patch is back, baby.

After a couple of rough years for the Canadian energy sector, the year so far has seen a resurgence of interest in oil and gas companies. The energy sector is this year's top performer within the S&P/TSX composite index, up 13 per cent. Canadian oil exports to the United States hit a record high of 3.4 million barrels a day in the first quarter.

With signs of a rebound everywhere, we canvassed investment professionals for their top oil patch stock picks. Whitecap Resources Inc. was the most popular among the money managers we spoke to, matching a spike in investor interest that has lifted its share price by 23 per cent since mid-March.

Keith G. Richards, portfolio manager, ValueTrend Wealth Management

Enerplus Corp. (ERF-TSX)

From both a technical and a fundamental perspective, Enerplus is poised for a run, Mr. Richards said. The stock is testing resistance levels beyond which it could rise to the $30 range, he said. The company's growth in reserves has renewed appetite for the stock.

John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management

Whitecap Resources Inc. (WCP-TSX)

The company, which recently completed an $855-million deal for oil and gas assets from Imperial Oil Ltd., has been good to investors in terms of both capital gains and rising dividends. "They buy good properties and are very good at mergers and acquisitions," Mr. Stephenson said.

Philippe Capelle, vice-president, equity at Standard Life Investments

Calfrac Well Services Ltd. (CFW-TSX)

"We are very bullish on the whole oil and gas service industry, but the pressure pumping industry is at an inflection point," Mr. Capelle said. He expects Calfrac to post solid earnings in the second half of 2014 and into 2015 as activity as the sector picks up.

Martin Pelletier, portfolio manager at TriVest Wealth Counsel

Baytex Energy Corp. (BTE-TSX)

This company recently raised its production capacity by almost 50 per cent with its $1.8-billion takeover of Aurora Oil & Gas. The revised production outlook, plus a low Canadian dollar bodes well for this stock, Mr. Pelletier said. "We believe it to be attractively valued, given it has not tracked the upside moves of some of the other Canadian heavy oil producers."

Eric Nuttall, portfolio manager with Sprott Asset Management

Whitecap Resources Inc. (WCP-TSX)

This stock currently trades at a substantial discount to some of its peers and multiple expansion should push the stock to around $16.50 within the next year or so, Mr. Nuttall said. He also expects Whitecap to generate enough free cash flow to reward investors handsomely. "They just increased their dividend by 10 per cent. It's likely at some point this year they'll increase it again."

John O'Connell, CEO and portfolio manager of Davis Rea

Spartan Energy Corp. (SPE-TSXV)

This company is well positioned to increase its production by scooping up good quality assets for sale in the oil patch, Mr. O'Connell said. "If you buy this thing and hold it for a couple of years, I think you'll double your money. This is what Whitecap looked like two years ago."

Greg Newman, senior wealth adviser at the Newman Group, a ScotiaMcLeod affiliate

Whitecap Resources Inc. (WCP-TSX)

Of the energy stocks paying a higher dividend, Whitecap has the best outlook, Mr. Newman said. "We believe Whitecap offers investors the most upside, given its strong cash flow growth profile, and currently have a one year price target of $20."

James Hodgins, chief investment officer at Curvature Hedge Strategies

Bellatrix Exploration Ltd. (BXE-TSX)

For investors less concerned with dividends, Bellatrix offers some good production growth through joint venture agreements it has in place with other companies. "It doesn't require a lot of success [with drilling] to continue to grow, and it doesn't require access to capital markets. I think there's some downside protection."

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