It really is quite remarkable. Young Philippe Cornet, who's emerged as a steady Barons goal wizard, has surprised everyone this season on the farm. After playing 60 games last year, and only scoring 7 goals, his now 20 goals in 36 games this season is an impressive upgrade. As it stands today, Cornet is tied for fourth in the American League goal scoring totals. He's impressed enough people to earn some time in the AHL All-Star festivities this coming weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey. What a difference a year can make.
A good friend of this site, Patricia at Artful Puck who brought us the in-depth Kirill Tulupov interview, has sewn together a fantastic interview with Oklahoma City's only 20 goal scorer at the mid-point of the minor league season. Cornet is indeed an interesting and sincerely frank young man. He's quietly determined and steely in his focus. As you'll read, he's becoming a prospect worth watching (our readers seem to agree as well).
After the jump, a couple of the highlights on that fantastic interview:
Throughout the interview, Cornet has a great respect for his father. He had this to say.
"When I was real young my dad put me in hockey and I guess I just started to like it. The first couple of years I was behind everyone back home, I wasn't very good and I was probably one of the worst skaters there. As I got a bit older I started to like it, it was all about hockey and I just couldn't do anything else."
Although a very staunch Habs supporter, it's interesting to note whom Cornet chose as his favorite player. One with which he models his game after.
"Growing up I always liked Dany Heatley and that is why I am wearing number 15 now. I wore number 15 probably the first time when I was 12 or 13 years old. That was the reason I picked the number and I have just stuck with it. I just always liked the way he played and when I was younger I was trying to be like him, playing the same style. For sure, he is a world-class player, one of the best players in the world and I just like his style of play."
And what about that play? Cornet is quite honest on where he is lacking, and where he is improving.
"I think just the fact that I am a bit faster than last year it helps. It helps to get to the loose pucks faster, it helps to grab rebounds, it helps just to get in front of the net. Most of my goals were probably ten feet from the net and that's where I need to go and that's where I am going to get goals and keep getting goals if I go there. If I always play far from the net I won't get any. Most goals in hockey are scored in the slot...I spent most of the summer in Montreal, about five hours from my home town, and I did a lot of off-ice work, working on my legs, getting stronger and leaner. I lost a couple of pounds this summer too. Every day I was on the ice for an hour and a half with a private coach working on my skating, that is mostly what I did. I also practiced my shot too, practiced a bit of skills but mostly skating. I focused a lot on skating this summer."
And while he improves, he's grateful for the opportunity to play within the Oilers organization, something he thought would never happen.
"Actually, I had spoken with a lot of teams prior to the draft and I had not talked to the Oilers at all. Not once, so I was not expecting the Oilers to draft me, but you never know who is going to draft you. Obviously I was happy and I was surprised. When the Oilers were picking I was not ready to be picked but then my name was called. It was a good feeling."
Life in the minors isn't just about bettering your hockey game, it's also about maturing as a person. Cornet talks about the change in pace and responsibility in his personal life.
"There wasn't anything really hard about it. Last year was my first year living by myself, in my own apartment, taking care of my own bills, taking care of my own food, everything. Always in Juniors I lived in a billet and they would take of everything - my laundry, everything for me. I would only have to play hockey and go to school, that's about it. But I think the hardest part was just living by yourself. Not because it is Oklahoma, anywhere I would have played it would have been the same thing."
As Philippe Cornet nears his 22nd birthday, it goes without saying that he's improved his game. A youngster who scored in the junior ranks, but wasn't anticipating a draft call, has somehow become a goal scorer in his second year as a pro. Call it a product of the wide-open offensive system in Coach Nelson's coaching, but I prefer to think that #15 has learned a lot in a year. In training camp, it was clear that he had found a new gear to his game. He was quicker, stronger, more intelligent with the puck. He's put in the off-season work, and it has begun to pay off.
A huge thanks to Patricia for allowing us to promote her interview. If you don't read her blog on a regular basis, add it to your news reader. Her "History of Hockey in Oklahoma" series is worth the trip alone.