Training camp for the Oilers won't be very competitive. It wasn't last year, though the right people paid lip service to it. In the end, the only available position is the seventh defensive spot, and while the candidates should be a veteran camp invitee, Andy Sutton, Cam Barker, Corey Potter and Taylor Chorney, the competition is going to come down to Taylor Chorney and Jeff Petry. Both players are aware of the situation, which should mean some desperate play as camp draws to a close, but is this really a fair competition?
You might remember Taylor Chorney from such appearances as "The Shift", and "Pat Quinn Hates Me". To say that Chorney's development has been a failed experiment is an understatement. He's played 56 career games, 54 of them on two of the worst non-expansion teams since expansion. Rather than develop his game by slowly taking on tougher competition in the AHL, he was forced into some of the toughest zonestarts since the lockout and paired with an aged partner who shouldn't have been in the NHL. On a team with any semblance of real NHL defensive depth, Chorney would have seven or so games played, much like Alex Plante. He would not have to pass through waivers to be sent to the AHL and he would be more likely to legitimately challenge for a roster spot this year.
He's been falling through our Top 25 Under 25 since we began those rankings because, as Scott Reynolds said in July:
At this point in his career, I think Chorney is a good bet to play an important role for the Barons, and he showed enough improvement last year that it's at least conceivable he'll one day play a useful role on an NHL team. But this season, it's likely off to Oklahoma, and even though he'll need to clear waivers to get there, I don't expect that to be a problem. That alone speaks volumes about Chorney's status as a prospect: he isn't one.
But Chorney holds a significant advantage: he has to pass through waivers.
Jeff Petry, on the other hand, has risen through our Top 25 Under 25 and remains the highest-rated defensive prospect in the organization. Petry was underrated coming out of Michigan State because he played enormous minutes for one of the worst teams in the NCAA. He didn't overwhelm the AHL when he debuted with the Barons, but he continued to play his calm and steady game, much like Tom Gilbert.
When he got the call to the bigs, he was nothing short of excellent. He ranked first on the entire team in scoring chance percentage, averaged 1.27 minutes per night on the penalty kill and two minutes per night on the power play to go with nearly 17 minutes per night at even strength.
Jaysen Knight praised his all-around game and made some significant historical comparisons:
I just love his game. It's a calm game that he plays. Heady even. The kind of game that reminds me of a lot of Charlie Huddy and Randy Gregg.
While all of his arrows are pointing up, given the chance to play third-line minutes on on a deep defensive team, he should shine.
The Oilers' have a history of struggling to cut players who must first pass through waivers, so this might not be a competition at all. Chorney might already be destined to start the season with the big club and Petry in Oklahoma City. In a fair fight however, Petry is the clear-cut front-runner in this competition. Actually, in a fair fight, Petry might be the front runner for the #4 defenseman.