The Edmonton Oilers have had more drafting success 2001 through 2007 than at anytime since the great 79-83 watershed. However, in goal and on the blueline they continue to lag in terms of development.
Since Craig MacTavish arrived to coach in the fall of 2000, the Oilers have been much more likely to deal for blueline help or sign a free agent than develop their own prospects.
In fact, many blueliners who had been hailed as quality were sent away during this decade. Among them were Chris Hajt, Alexei Semenov and Alex Henry. Marc-Andre Bergeron established himself as an NHL player before being sent away, and more recently Matt Greene has worked his way into the lineup and played well enough to stay there, and Mathieu Roy and Bryan Young have had some success.
Still, it’s been years (Tom Poti) since the Oilers drafted a player who had any kind of long term success on the their blueline.
Taylor Chorney should change all that. His points-per-game improved season over season before finding level ground this year (.409, .795, .750), and he’s described as a quality two-way defender.
At last winter’s World Junior Championships he seemed to have some strength issues but looked good otherwise, specifically in terms of coverage without the puck and all areas offensively. The one area that looks like it might be elite level is skating, he really is a beautiful skater. The one area that would seem to be a weakness is physical play.
The season Tom Poti turned 20 (his sophomore year), his point per game total was 1.11 on a team that scored 4.08 goals per game. Chorney is 20 this season, and has a points per game total of .750 on a team averaging 3 goals per game.
The best info I’ve ever seen on Chorney came from Geoff Ward: “This is a guy that every game I have seen him in he has gotten better,” began Ward. “As a freshman playing against 22 and 23-year-old guys it can be intimidating, but he’s done a good job. He’s steady in all areas and that’s what sticks out to me the most. He’s a strong passer, moves the puck well and the thing I really like is that after he moves the puck he follows it up the ice so he’s always in a position to be the fourth man. He’s a guy that has tremendous upside and as a freshman right now he does a lot of things very well. I think in three years we’re going to be extremely excited to see how far he’s come.” SOURCE: Guy Flaming HF article “Chorney Strong at North Dakota”, 11/11/05.
The comps I’ve read about Chorney (Rafalski, Leopold) are impressive but I don’t know if they are terribly helpful. Rafalski has been a tremendous player over a long period (and he did have a nice college career) but it seems to me a story about him is less helpful for a top tier pick. Rafalski BECAME Rafalski, he didn’t have draft pedigree and his career didn’t follow a predictable and easily traced course. Leopold would seem to be a poor comp just based on style.
No, I think Chorney is a guy we’re going to have to wait and see when he gets here. His resume so far looks very good.