Summer 2007 Rank: 9
Injury. Edmonton Oiler fans have seen a lot of good young defense prospects lose most or all of their careers to injury over the years. Selmar Odelein, Nick Stajduhar and Doug Lynch among the names who washed out before making names for themselves at the NHL level.
Plante’s story is an interesting one that I’ve detailed in the past here and here. There’s a fine interview on the Oilers site where you get his initial reaction to being drafted, and he comes off as a well spoken young man who is clearly pleased to have been drafted in the middle of the first round. “I really had no clue where I was going to go. My agent said I could go in the first round or I could go in the third, it was a pretty wide open draft. I was excited and honoured when I heard my name. It’s such a great hockey organization, it gave me a chance to stay up here in Canada, it was all around unreal.”
Plante’s scouting reports run the gamut. I have a friend in the hockey industry who scouts many nights each winter and his comments to me on Plante are so wide ranging we call him Jekyll and Hyde. He can look very good or very bad based on the game you’re watching. Generally speaking that is not a good sign for a prospect and added to the injury concerns (it’s his back, GREAT) Plante is a little off the pace being set by Gagner and Nash among the trio of first rounders from the 2007 draft.
Plante has missed a lot of time this season to injury (last night’s game was #36 for the Hitmen and marks the season’s halfway point. Plante has played 8 games, going 1-1-2, +3), and his back injury has impacted an already inconsistent junior career. His junior coach is frustrated by the injury but likes him (Kelly Kisio: “We haven’t had a chance to play him this year. But over the last couple of years he’s improved a great deal. His foot-speed has come a long way, his natural instincts have come out”) and his 17-year old junior season was quality (58gp, 8-30-38 and a 13gp, 5-6-11 playoff).
The highlights so far are two outstanding scouting reports from the best services available to fans:
Redline: Alex Plante has come a long way since the beginning of the season. At 6-4/215-pounds, he showed surprising offensive skills, particularly on the PP, where he can act as either trigger man or quarterback. He’s not a big baggage smasher, but will use his body in front and to tie forwards up along the walls.
ISS: Great size, not afraid of rough stuff. Has improved speed, good first pass, rarely gets beaten one on one. Pro size with hockey sense. A good defender who could play in all situations. Without a doubt one of the biggest draft wildcards. The number one attraction of this player is his combination of outstanding size and skill. He is blessed with a genetic gift and a relatively high level of skating and puck skill for a player this big. Plante is an intense player who is mean and not afraid of playing along the boards or competing physically. He has a good stride and his agility is improving. This has led to a definite improvement in his overall play and a climb up our rankings.
Plante needs to play most or all of the remaining 37 games of the WHL schedule this winter and obviously needs to have a bigger impact on the offensive side of the game. Fellow Hitmen defender Karl Alzner is having another fine year and the team itself is having a nice run after a slow start.
The story on Alex Plante this fall has been poor, but there’s plenty of time to edit the script.