#16 Prospect: Taylor Chorney

Winter 2009: #8
Summer 2010: #18

Winter 2010: #16

Taylor Chorney was chosen by the Edmonton Oilers in a “perfect storm.” Post-lockout rule changes gave NHL teams (and fans) the belief that smaller, mobile puck movers would rule the earth and that the physical game would be reduced greatly. Although the game is different (you can’t clutch, hook, grab or molest like the old days) the rules didn’t bend to the point where Taylor Chorney could impact the game in a positive manner straight out of college. His 2008-09 and 2009-10 AHL seasons (and all of his NHL time during the regular year) have shown without a doubt that the world hasn’t changed that much since 2004.

The Edmonton Oilers handling of their prospects over the years has been to fast-track in many cases. Chorney’s appearances in the NHL were ill-advised and perhaps gave us a wrong idea about him as a hockey player.

Pre-draft scouting reports were glowing and wordy:

  • The Hockey News: Chorney will join fellow 2005 draft-eligible defenseman Brian Lee as a freshman at the University of North Dakota in 2005-06; possesses loads of offensive upside, thanks to outstanding skating ability and sound instincts; great footwork make him adept at stopping opponents one-on-one; played well for the U.S. gold-medallist squad at the 2005 World U-18 tournament, registering a goal and plus-5 rating in six games; must add more strength in order to handle pro forwards.
  • International Scouting Services: Uses his great skating ability to get to loose pucks and skate the puck out of trouble. Although we are slightly concerned about his size, Chorney’s hockey IQ is very high. He understands the game very well and continued to improve with every viewing. Sound positional defender, not very physical. Projects to be a top 4 defender at the NHL level–mainly because of his sound hockey sense and ability to lead the transition game. 5.11, 182.

Chorney’s progress through college hockey was well documented (he played for the famous North Dakota program) and the overall reviews were good.

  • Oilers organization scout/coach 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.

Once he arrived in pro hockey (with Springfield, fall 2008) the reviews remained positive:

  • Falcons coach Jeff Truitt: “He’s been unbelievable so far. He’s such a smooth skater, he sees the ice really well and has great poise with the puck. When he has the puck, good things happen. He makes good reads and is sure noticeable with his skating ability, he’s so smooth out there. He’s a great player.”

However, Chorney and his team were outmanned, owing mostly to the organization’s inability to add veteran pro players to go with the kids (this is a strong reason for Kevin Prendegast’s eventual dismissal).

  • Rob Daum: “The thing with Taylor is that it is a huge adjustment from going from college to the American Hockey League. Especially as a defenseman, I think that’s the most difficult transition to make. When I saw him here (Springfield) last season he seemed to be all over the map position wise and because of that he put himself in spots where he wasn’t able to defend properly. What we wanted to do is make him positionally sound so the game would be a little bit easier, his reads would be more defined. So when he did get the puck his options would be in front of him. If there was an area of his game I thought he needed to improve it was the defensive side. He’s not a big man, so he has to be sure he’s sound positionally in order to defend against players who are bigger and stronger than he is. I think that’s one of the things he did a great job improving at the end of last season. I think he carried that over this year and he hasn’t looked out of place at the NHL level this season. When you’re in the right spot, the game is a little bit easier for you. Taylor is a great skater and has an ability to move the puck and he’s gained some confidence in his game.”

Chorney’s AHL (and NHL) numbers were very poor:

  • 08-09 AHL 68gp, 5-16-21 -29
  • 09-10 AHL 32gp, 4-9-13 -20
  • 08-09 NHL 2gp, 0-0-0 -4
  • 09-10 NHL 42gp, 0-3-3 -21

Chorney has always looked good in training camp when paired with a veteran. However, as the pre-season wears on (and fewer non-NHLers are on rosters) he would look more and more exposed. This should come as a surprise to no one. Most of those negatives above can be blamed on poor handing, as the club had Chorney play tough minutes at the AHL before he was ready (clearly).

This fall, the Oilers sent Chorney out pretty early. They placed him on what appears to be the 2nd pairing with Alex Plante (behind the Belle-Petry pairing) and chose Belle as the first callup from the farm. All reasonable moves, and it is paying off. Here are the numbers by category for the Oilers AHL prospects on D:

  1. Shawn Belle 23gp, 0-7-7 (.304)
  2. Jeff Petry 26gp, 2-4-6 (.231)
  3. Johan Motin 22gp, 1-3-4 (.182)
  4. Alex Plante 25gp, 1-3-4 (.160)
  5. Taylor Chorney 26gp, 0-3-3 (.115)
  1. Taylor Chorney +3
  2. Alex Plante +1
  3. Johan Motin -1
  4. Shawn Belle -7
  5. Jeff Petry -7
  1. Jeff Petry 2-8-10
  2. Shawn Belle 2-6-8
  3. Taylor Chorney 0-4-4
  4. Alex Plante 0-2-2
  5. Johan Motin 0-0-0
  1. Jeff Petry 1-0-1
  2. Shawn Belle 0-1-1

Now we don’t have TOI totals (our very way of life would crumble if those numbers became public domain) but it looks like Taylor Chorney is settling in as a defenseman in the AHL.

  • He’s getting plenty of minutes on a solid pairing with Plante (the best plus minus)
  • He’s helping a little offensively at EVs and is posting PP points in limited time
  • He’s miles from -20, let alone -29

The AHL site lists Chorney at 6.0, 196 these days. He’s never going to be a physical defender, but if he can continue to use his finesse style and get these kinds of results, there may come a time when he can take on some NHL minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a pulse.

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