During an inconsistent and, at times, frustrating season for the Edmonton Oilers organization as a whole, their four CHL prospects have all had solid seasons. The WHL was well represented, featuring three of the four players.
Jordan Eberle, RW, 18 – Regina Pats
Acquired: 2008 entry draft, 22nd overall
Ironically, the player that has had the most memorable year is also the one that some would consider the most disappointing. Everything seemed to point to a huge year for Eberle. He was coming off a 42-goal season as a 17-year-old, and after being drafted in the first round of the NHL entry draft, had an impressive training camp debut in Edmonton. Fans had visions of a 50-goal season for the talented sniper.
He had a hot start in Regina, which he carried over to the World Juniors, where his clutch scoring became the toast of the tournament. Unfortunately, he seemed to lose his groove upon his return to the Pats and had a mostly forgettable final stretch, although he did end the season with a hat trick.
Even with his post World Juniors dry spell, he still led the Pats in goals (35), points (74), power-play goals (12), short-handed goals (3), and game-winning goals (9). At the team’s year-end awards, he was named the Pats Top Player, Most Popular, Most Sportsmanlike, and tops in Three Star Awards.
He just signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Oilers and is expected to play a few games for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, to end the season.
Milan Kytnar, C, 19 – Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 2007 entry draft, 127th overall
Kytnar is Eberle’s polar opposite. Whereas Eberle is all-world hands and skill, Kytnar is all about stellar defense and determination. The 6’1, 180-pound center had a solid showing at the World Juniors, but unlike Eberle, seemed to get stronger as the season wore on. He was one of the go-to players on the Saskatoon Blades, becoming both an offensive catalyst and a tireless force on defense.
With 27 goals and 37 assists in 65 games, Kytnar will likely never be a big point producer as a pro, but he could become a very valuable shut-down center who’s great on faceoffs and the penalty kill – something that the current edition of the Oilers could use. At the Blades year-end awards ceremony, he won the Brian Skrudland trophy as the team’s top defensive forward and also took home the award for Hardest Working Player. The Oilers will have to sign him by June if they wish to keep his rights.
Alex Plante, D, 19 – Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 2007 entry draft, 15th overall
Whether Plante has met expectation this season is a matter of perspective. If a player’s performance were judged solely on stats, one would only have to look at the defenseman’s eight goals and 37 assists in 68 games, compared to last year’s injury-riddled, two-point campaign to say that he has more than surpassed expectations. If for no other reason than that the bar had been set pretty low. But, if one were to look at his solid, but unspectacular season and then remember that he was drafted 15th overall, ahead of such talented forwards as Angelo Esposito, David Perron, and Colton Gillies, the perspective is quite different.
There has been a lot to like about Plante’s season in Calgary, though. He has good size (6’4, 225 pounds), is physical, and has a great shot. His most glaring weakness is his lack of mobility. He isn’t a great skater and could have his hands full against the speedier forwards in the NHL. Overall, he’s been a solid, defensive defenseman who can chip in the odd goal.
The Oilers will have to decide if he’s progressed enough since his draft year to warrant a contract, or if a compensatory pick (45th overall) in this year’s strong draft would be more valuable.
Philippe Cornet, LW, 18 – Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 2008 entry draft, 133rd overall
The lone CHL prospect outside of the WHL, Philippe Cornet is going to be a fun player to watch in the next couple of years. The 2008 fifth rounder has had a great year in Rimouski, and if he continues to develop at his current rate, will turn out to be a steal. He has a nice set of skills to go along with a never-say-die attitude, a combination that spells success at any level.
He finished the regular season as the Oceanic’s top scorer with 29 goals and 48 assists in 63 games, finishing comfortably among the Quebec league’s top 20 scorers. He also had six points in his first two playoff games (two goals, four assists), and is definitely a player on the rise.