This summer's version of the Top 25 Under 25 started out with a couple of players that are relatively new to the list. There was the newly drafted Jujhar Khaira making his first appearance on the list, followed by Kyle Bigos making only his second appearance. And then there is Alex Plante. Selected in the first round of the 2007 Entry Draft Plante has been a fixture on this list since the beginning. But time and a slew of new prospects are quickly becoming hurdles for the once promising defenceman who again finds himself near the bottom of the Top 25.
By dressing for three games during the Oilers 2011/12 campaign Plante finally reached double digits for games played in the NHL. Five years removed from being a first round pick that probably isn't the kind of career milestone Plante had hoped to reach last season. Things were supposed to be different for Plante by now. He was supposed to be an established player and yet remains a long term project at this point. With the likes of Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, and Brandon Davidson knocking on the door, time is quickly running out on Plante.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
Of the eight voters, seven of us still have Plante ranked in the Top 25 so as a group we still seem to be holding out some hope for Plante as a prospect. The exception is Derek who ranks him at number 27. Being down on Plante isn't new with Derek, he was also the only one who ranked him outside the Top 25 the last time we went through all of this. Derek explains his ranking of Plante with the following:
You know those movie scenes when the antagonist is trying to talk to his departing love, but one of them is swept over by a crowd of onrushing travelers? Alex Plante is in the midst of being swept under. His offense never translated to the pro game and his injury luck has destroyed any opportunity to advance or even just stay in the lineup consistently. Up until now, he's had it easy. He's had very few defensive prospects to challenge him for playing time in the AHL. All of a sudden, that rush of travellers is about to hit. We've got six defensive prospects ranked above him that have yet to play a game for any level of the Edmonton Oilers organization. Two will start this year, three next year and two the year after that. We won't forget you, Alex!
It's hard to argue with what Derek has to say in this case. The injuries are a concern. The offence is a concern. And the depth chart is a concern. But I don't think everything with Plante is bad.
For starters with 14 points in 41 games Plante was second on the Barons blue line last season in points per game behind Bryan Helmer. Before getting hurt he was having the best season of his pro career. That is an encouraging sign that maybe, just maybe, the offensive upside he displayed in junior is starting to translate to the pro ranks. I think that had Plante been able to finish what he started he would look a lot less suspect right now.
And then there is the depth chart. While not his friend at this point, the depth chart is loaded with raw prospects who have zero NHL experience. So while hopes are high for that group they might as easily falter, much like Plante did, when they try to make the transition to the AHL. Plante is running out of opportunities in a hurry but there is still a window for him right now. The bad news is that the Oilers have eight pro contracts ahead of him so getting that shot might not be easy. The good news is that he plays in the Oilers organization and someone is always getting hurt so you never know, maybe he'll get one last chance.
Ben being the resident Plante cheerleader has this to say about him:
The problem with Alex Plante is injury. I get that; it doesn't matter how damned good you are if you're never on the ice. But he was doing extremely well last season until he got his eggs scrambled; certainly the best of the young Barons defensemen and once again not an embarrassment to his profession in his NHL cameo. It built off his 2010-11 season which was also pretty good. He's a simple, no-nonsense defenseman who is probably already playing simple, no-nonsense defense at an NHL level, except he just hasn't been able to play enough games. Compare Plante to some of the players ranked ahead of him, though; I'd rather take a decent player who's hurt than a crappy player who's always available every. single. time.
Plante is certainly more suspect than prospect at this point but it's worth remembering that he is only 23 years old. The odds are long and getting longer by the day but he would hardly be the first defenceman to bloom late. The problem for him now is that this is starting to become something he can't control all on his own, I think he'll need some luck as well. As Ben says, his biggest problem is injuries so it's fair to say that he's had his share of bad luck, now what he really needs is some of the good variety. And that probably means injures to other Oilers defenders, not him.