Now that's a scoring chance! Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
In a glossy world of all things Omark and Hartikainen, it wasn't easy being green for Philippe Cornet last season. During the 2010-2011 season, he showed promise both in his skating ability and his play-making tendencies. However, he got lost in the herd slightly as the left wing got incredibly dynamic with the aforementioned Linus Omark and Teemu Hartikainen, and veteran Alexandre Giroux. As fans, we enjoyed seeing the kid play and through 60 games he scored 7 goals and tallied 16 assists. Not bad for the kid from Val-Senneville.
Something strange happened around mid-January for Phillipe Cornet. His progression as a left winger changed immensely when he suddenly found himself being reshuffled in the lineup. Whether it was with Mark Arcobello or Teemu Hartikainen, Cornet began to show an edge to his game that was missing in the previous three and a half months. Benefiting from really solid linemates, Cornet showed flashes of being yet another rookie that Oilers fans would want to pay attention to.
Fast forward to the beginning of this season. What took Cornet 60 games to accomplish last season, he's done in only 8, and that's notch 7 goals. Once again, playing with some very strong linemates has awoken the sleeping dragon from within. But it's much more than goal-scoring. He's bulked up a bit, really worked on his play in front of the crease, and has the improbable knack for being Mr. Johnny on the spot. He has the makings of the "new" Colin McDonald in that he suddenly has found a second gear to his game that no one expected to see this quickly. The upside for a guy like Cornet is that he's still extremely young, turning 22 in March.
He has two very important roles on this years Barons squad. At even strength, he is consistently centered by Ryan O'Marra or Gilbert Brule who are both fine assist mates. However, it's the power play role that is the most bright and sunny. The Oklahoma City PP unit only scores 19.6% of the time, which ranks near the middle of the American League. The overall tally isn't great, but Cornet's three power play goals in eight games ranks him in the top ten in that specific category in the AHL. The first PP unit of Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Teemu Hartikainen, Philippe Cornet, and Bryan Helmer is one to watch. No sophomore slump here.
I, for one, find my mouth agape when he touches the puck. He actually has begun to remind me of a Liam Reddox mover and shaker. It's the no fear attitude in front of the net that really garnishes him the most valuable of brownie points. But can he keep the pace? That's a question that Oilers and Barons fans are asking a lot lately. And with the season so young, all fingers are crossed.