Earlier this week I addressed the worst twenty prospects in the Oilers system, and yesterday, Derek and Scott took care of the first trio in our Top 25 Under 25. With Roy, Wild, and Reddox off the board, it falls to Ben and Bruce to hit the next three. It is an appropriately mixed bag: a short American defenseman, a tall western Canadian goalie, and a scoring forward from Quebec. One drafted in 2004, one drafted in 2005, and one drafted in 2008. You couldn't easily pick three more dissimilar players with more variant career paths, and yet the three are presented for your analysis by an acclaimed source of historical and prospect knowledge as well as
For those just joining us, the Top 25 Under 25 is exactly what it sounds like, an examination of Edmonton's best twenty-five players under the age of twenty-five as of January 31, 2010. Rather than restricting ourselves by trying to explain why 22-year-old Taylor Chorney is a prospect and 20-year-old Sam Gagner isn't, we take Edmonton's youngsters on an equal footing and consider the core group as a whole.
Plus, you get all sorts of burning questions answered, like "what the hell is Taylor Chorney's deal, anyway?" and "which youngster below the top twenty did Bruce rank eighth?" So, without further ado, Taylor Chorney, Devan Dubnyk, and Philippe Cornet.
by: Benjamin Massey
There are two sides to Taylor Chorney. The first is the saw him good side. The kid has wheels that a defenseman just shouldn't have. He's got an eye for the play and can pass like a champion. His shot's not bad, his feet are good, his head is on straight. On paper, the guy should be cruising - at minimum, Marc-Andre Bergeron, at best, Dan Boyle. Theoretically.
On the other hand, Chorney is twenty-two years old and turns twenty-three in April. Playing his second professional season, he isn't only not dominating the American Hockey League but he isn't even treading water, with a -19 rating in 27 games. He is by far the worst defensive player on the worst defensive team in the American Hockey League, and with only ten points his offense isn't coming close to making up for it. He brings some skills to the table, but then he tries to do that trick where he whisks away the tablecloth and just smashes everything to pieces.
As negative a phrase as it has become in the Oilogosphere, Taylor Chorney is the sort of guy who it's hard not to see good. He just looks like a hockey player, skating with utter disdain for friction and gravity. He can stickhandle, too, which a lot of defensemen his age can't. Perhaps he's not quite NHL calibre yet, and perhaps he tries to make plays he can't make, but, size aside, the physical gifts are all there.
Unfortunately, that's not close to enough. That he got such an extended shot at the NHL this year is a testament to both Edmonton's miserable depth and Edmonton's organizational incompetence. Even the Oilers, horrible though they are, had better options this season than Taylor Chorney. And he proved it in style, notching a hilarious, Fall-for-Hall worthy -22.09 Corsi/60. There are no redeeming qualities in Chorney in the NHL this season and one in the AHL: of his four goals, three are on the power play. Woo. Moderate competence at special teams. Pencil this guy into the lineup in 2010-11.
There are straws to grasp at. Defensemen, particularly small defensemen like Chorney, can take some time to develop as they figure out how to think at professional speed. Chorney spent quite some time in the NCAA, where the style of play is noticeably less physical and somebody of Chorney's stature had more room to manoeuvre and show his stuff. He plays like garbage but he is by no means a garbage player; he ranked this high not so much because of his potential but because there's potential for him to have potential. Maybe, someday, he'll eventually be an NHL player. If we're lucky.
And if not, well, seriously, look at that guy skate! There's a guy who'll be owning his pickup games until he's seventy.
by: Bruce McCurdy
That would be me ranking a guy 8th who we collectively ranked outside the top 20. Of course we're talking about goalies here, which is a crapshoot at the best of times. Dubnyk, for example, was the second netminder selected in the 2004 Entry Draft, (14th overall). He actually compares fairly well to the other guys at the top of the class -- #6 Al Montoya, #17 Marek Schwarz, #26 Cory Schneider, #37 David Shantz, #38 Justin Peters -- of which Dubnyk is at this point the only one to play as many as 500 minutes in the NHL. But the one that has seen by far the most NHL action at this point (over 5000 minutes) was the 30th of the 33 netminders chosen that spring, when Nashville guessed right on Pekka Rinne in the 8th round, 258th overall. Rinne was already 21 so it's not entirely a fair comp, but at the same time I wouldn't bet a plugged nickel today on anyone but Rinne ultimately facing the most NHL action. Did I remember to mention picking goalies is a crapshoot?
My own view on Dubnyk is that he is tracking reasonably well, making measurable progress year over year. One measure of that is Sv%, creeping ever northward in the AHL from .904 two seasons ago to .906 last season to .909 this. At first glance that is pretty incremental improvement, but it's interesting to compare his percentages to those of his creasemates in each of the last two seasons:
Now maybe that speaks more to the execrable quality of the secondary goaltending in Springfield this season compared to last, or more likely it just speaks to the execrable quality of the team, which sucks hard, especially in Dubnyk's absence. The Falcons collapsed when DD got called up to the big club.
The recall itself has met with "mixed" results, to put it euphemistically. Mostly it's been losses mixed with other losses, but there have been a few good performances sprinkled into the mix. The trouble is Dubnyk is still stuck on a brutal team. Hard to find much good to say about numbers like an 0-6-1 record, 4.17 GAA and .860 Sv%. Any positives are buried on the "seen-him-good" side, things like composure under fire, competitiveness, and puckhandling (better than Deslauriers so possibly as good as merely terrible).
While Dubnyk looks moderately decent when compared against his draft class, his creasemates in Springfield, or against the career path of JDD, there are no guarantees that any of these comps represent NHL-calibre goaltending. In the end we're left with Dubnyk's own record of slow but steady improvement without a backwards step since his draft day, nearly 6 long years ago.
by: Benjamin Massey
You don't know how much it's killing me to write about this guy. After all... well, why don't I throw this post over to myself from the past:
Still, if Cornet shows up in the NHL I'll print off this blog post and eat it. These guys simply don't make it, and if they're not going to make it what's the point of drafting them?
So, yeah, how's that working out for me?
In his draft year, Philippe Cornet was the second-leading scorer on a decent Rimouski squad headed by a nineteen-year-old you may have heard of named Michael Frolik. His next year, Cornet bested the point-per-game mark, leading his team in scoring and having a pretty effective run through the QMJHL playoffs. This year, now a Rouyn-Noranda Husky, his scoring pace has improved still further as he's formed an effective scoring partnership with undrafted Montreal native and midget Gabriel Levesque.
Plus, he had the patience and the good grace to survive an entire interview with Derek Zona and that alone counts for a lot. Not everyone can do that, you know.
Cornet's trending the right way in a lot of levels. His scoring pace has gradually improved. In his second campaign since his draft year, although he hasn't dominated like we hope a qualify offensive prospect to; he's a respectable but not remarkable fifteenth in QMJHL scoring to date and didn't get more than a curious sniffle at the Canadian World Junior team. Of course, all those things were true to an even greater extent of the late, lamented Vyacheslav Trukhno, who is now falling down the prospect rankings like a defective elevator.
To an extent, my old criticisms are still true. He's still not much of a sniper, shooting 12.9% this year, but not enough of a playmaker to get by on that alone. His skating is adequate. Unlike Trukhno, Cornet is a better-than-average even strength player, but again hardly dominant. He's big enough to get by but not big enough to really use his size at the professional level, and he might suffer when he no longer has talented but small offense-only forwards like Levesque to bounce off of.
Worse, he is showing signs of being a genuinely poor defensive player even in junior. The best defensemen on the 2008-09 Rimouski Oceanic, Sebastien Piche and Emmanuel Boudreau, were +9 and +14. Centre Patrice Cormier was +8. Right winger Jordan Caron was +14. Linemate Cornet was -2. That's hard to do. Only three players who got in more than 60 games were EV- on the 2008-09 Oceanic. In Rouyn-Noranda this year, Cornet is +4 but his centre, Levesque, is +14, and their top defenseman is +18. He's not just behind, he's being lapped.
Guys who can't outscore at even strength aren't going to get a long way. But Cornet is, at the very least, trending in the right direction. That's not something you can say about every prospect in the Oiler stable.