Taylor Chorney turned pro last fall and had a good training camp. After the Joey Moss game I wrote “he’s not ready but you can see he’s a player. Made a beauty tee-up pass to Visnovsky for a great shot that resulted in the Eberle goal. You’re going to like him.”
In training camp and during the pre-season Chorney played with a veteran and got to showcase his puck moving and passing talents. When he got sent down to the American Hockey League, he didn’t have control of the puck for months. The Oilers were slow to recognize his shortcomings which made the problem worse and the recovery slower.
The results were roadkill.
- What is his style? In many cases for Oiler prospects the best way to find out what they are is to google the player’s name and “Geoff Ward” right after. Ward is a smart guy who doesn’t feel a need to make everyone sound like Babe Ruth when talking about them, which is unique in the Oilers organization. Ward said “he’s steady in all areas; a strong passer, moves the puck well and what 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 4th man.” So, that’s what he is–a puck moving defender with a high offensive aptitude.
- What are his negatives? Size is a concern and once again we see how difficult it is for defensemen to learn how to play their position once they turn pro.
- Why is that the case so often? My theory is that when these gifted kids play in junior, high school and college they’re the best players on the ice so the puck is always on their stick. In order to learn defense you need to read, react and recover. I doubt Taylor Chorney did any more of that as a teenager than someone like Tom Poti did at the same age.
- What the hell happened in Springfield? At the start of the season (and for much of the year) Chorney was playing against pretty good AHL players every shift. The reasons (Prendergast didn’t sign enough veterans and there were injuries) aren’t important now, what is of interest is that once he got himself into a situation where he could slow the game down and use his head for more than a hat-rack things began to improve. It’s an important point to make.
- How much did he improve in the second half? Quite a bit. In his first 34 games he was 2-7-9, -21. After settling down a little they adjusted the slope of his treadmill and he went 34gp, 3-9-12 -8. Those are tolerable numbers for an AHL rookie defenseman, especially considering the laugh riot that was the 08-09 Falcons.
- How difficult was his treadmill slope overall? Pretty tough. As I write this that freak Willis (has he no life?) has posted another terrific article on the Falcons quality of competition. The article is here. It shows that Chorney was in a cluster of blue facing some above average competition. I’d say that’s a very difficult assignment for a rookie and we can probably cut Wild some slack in this area as well.
- But what about offense? I think it must have been pretty difficult to establish any kind of flow under these circumstances. As it was, Chorney’s rookie AHL season saw him lead Falcon defenders in total points and finish in 5th on the team in assists.
- Was it a lost season? We don’t know yet. Remember that phrase what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, Chorney cannot possibly have a rougher time in the AHL this season than he did a year ago. He’s a year older, has that experience and the team isn’t going to let “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” Prendergast roll a bunch of rookies out there to get killed every night.
- Where have the Oilers slotted him? They like him a ton, it’s obvious in many ways. An example would be that he played in the NHL this past season despite the disaster that was playing out in Springfield. He’ll come when he’s ready and I suspect the team will make room for him.
- So he’s the top defender in Springfield? No, but he might be the first player (after Peckham) who gets the call. The Oilers believe in him, so at some level a guy like Cody Wild needs to be clearly better in order to pass Chorney.
- Why does he matter? Chorney has a bit of a tough road ahead because he lacks a couple of key components required to play the position (size, toughness). It doesn’t mean he can’t help the team, though. The season ahead will tell us a lot about him.
- Is he better than Cody Wild? I don’t think there’s any real evidence. They’re about equal, have been for quite a long time.
- Will he play in the NHL this season? The Oilers usually play their top end D prospects for a game or two in year one, maybe 3-to-5 the next and then get serious about his future after that’s done. Peckham is ahead of him in this way but after that Chorney’s next up and his skill set is unique enough that he could get the call earlier than we think based on who gets hurt. That’ll depend on training camp and improvement at the AHL level in 09-10.
- Anything else? Just this: When we talk about kids failing in the American League, we need to remember it’s a terrific league. I don’t have any way of estimating the size of the leap from playing at UND to facing grizzled, rugged AHL veterans but it’s a pretty wide gap that everyone but Kevin Prendergast is surely aware of by this time.