Alex Plante took a bit of a beating in the summer version of the Top 25 Under 25. At that point it seemed like everyone capable of skating backwards in the organization had passed him on the blueline depth chart.
Four years out and the first-rounder is still a work in progress. Given the Oilers' defensive bent in the 2011 NHL Draft, Neal's assessment about one more season is probably accurate, as is our combined ranking. With Blain, Davidson, Gernat, Klefbom, Marincin, Simpson, and Teubert all breathing down his neck, it's time for Plante to finally get the professional game and end the building phase of his game.
-Derek Zona, in July
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB||Derek||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
Some of that summer ranking had to do with NHL games played, but if you look at the situation as a whole, leaving him in the AHL was probably the better move for his development, especially given his injury history. 2007-08 was basically a write-off after he injured his back. In 2009-10 he looked like he was turning the corner after a rough first half before suffering a concussion. In 2010-11 he was finally healthy and was able to get a developmental year behind him and showed remarkable improvement from his rookie year.
Plante has continued to show improvement in his game this year in terms of traditional numbers. He’s 6 points off last season’s totals in 45 less games, and he’s once again one of the top defencemen on the team in terms of +/-. He’s always had decent skating speed for a big guy and in his limited showing in the NHL this year, he’s drastically improved his footwork, which was by far his biggest weakness.
Aside from his footwork, the knock on Plante has been his injuries. With his latest concussion, that makes 3 documented concussions and a major back injury in 4 years. That’s very concerning and it could derail his career going forward. These are key developmental years and it’s important that he spends them on the ice, not in the doctor’s office.
Despite the knocks, Plante continues to progress and that’s part of the reason he’s held onto his spot in the top 25. He continues to be a polarizing player amongst those of us at the Copper & Blue (he’s got the biggest separation between highest and lowest ranking), and it’s anyone’s guess where the big guy fits into the long term plans of the organization. He’s a big defenceman who has a pretty good pedigree and that alone will help get him chances, whether it’s with the Oilers or elsewhere.
What they’re saying:
Derek Zona (32nd):
I've never been high on Plante's game simply because of his skating abilities. He's just not fast enough to be an impact player at the NHL level. Throw in three significant concussions and two significant injuries all before the age of 22 and there are far too many red flags here.
You can’t ignore his injuries, but you can’t ignore the fact that he has gotten better every year. He’s got size and the willingness and smarts to use it. He’s improving his weaknesses. In general, his arrows are all pointing in the right direction and he’s still only 22 years old.