During MacT’s 8 seasons as Oilers coach his team sent a lot of rookie defensemen to the majors. There were high picks and low picks and kids who didn’t get picked in the draft. There were juniors and college seniors and puck movers and stay-at-homes. There were Canadians and Americans and Russians and there were studs and there were duds.
It is important to remember that there were also kids who played when they were too young but the organization wanted them at the big league level for one reason or another. Here are the significant defenders who made the grade during the MacT era in Edmonton, followed by the year they played and their minutes that season:
- Tom Gilbert (07-08) 1820
- Ladislav Smid (06-07) 1481
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (03-04) 953
- Alexei Semenov (02-03) 905
- Jan Hejda (06-07) 795
- Ales Pisa (02-03) 622
- Matt Greene (05-06) 303
- Danny Syvret (06-07) 295
- Mathieu Roy (06-07) 226
- Scott Ferguson (00-01) 218
- Theo Peckham (08-09) 174
- Taylor Chorney (09-10) 168 and counting
- Bryan Young (06-07) 151
- Kari Haakana (02-03) 103
Chorney didn’t make the team out of camp but was called up early on because of all the injuries along the blue. His first game was October 12, and it came about pretty much as predicted. In the post “Training Camp Hopeful #2: Taylor Chorney” on August 30th I wrote this in regard to his chances of playing 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.
Which brings us here. Geoff Ward said Chorney is “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.” And that’s how he appears to be developing in the show, a puck mover who can jump into the play.
How useful can he be as a rookie? To the naked eye he already looks ahead of both Strudwick and Peckham, which would put him 7th on a healthy depth chart (Lubo, Souray, Gilbert, Grebs, Smid, Staios) and could push Strudwick onto the IR or into retirement. He’d really have to earn it, though. Strudwick is a very popular player both with the media and apparently as a teammate.
There’s also injuries and that should keep him in Oilerville until close to Christmas based on what we’re reading about Souray. The question then becomes “is he any good?” and the answer is probably “yes, in a narrow view.” Chorney can move the puck but he isn’t going to impact games offensively at this point in his career. His Corsi number is -22.19, well clear of Strudwick and Peckham. He’s not facing the vaunt but isn’t playing the weakest opposition either. If the Oilers had all of their cannons pointed in the same direction (making the playoffs) then moving in a veteran NHL defender would be a priority, but the Oilers (as the list above proves) often play these kids earlier than optimum.
Chorney’s boxcars are 10gp, 0-1-1 E at this time. If the question was “should the Oilers acquire a veteran defender if Souray’s injury looks like it will cost his season?” the answer is yes, but I think the question the Oilers are asking is “can we count on Chorney to play at a level that won’t get him and us killed before Christmas?” and incredibly the answer may be yes.