by Lisa Brown on 12/02/11 at 02:00 AM ET
The number of Oilers prospects who may wear an Oilers jersey or who are at the very least excellent trading tools is higher than it’s ever been. Yet, among all of the names there has definitely emerged a surprise this year. Currently leading the AHL in scoring is a prospect that many had forgotten about and who had been passed in the ranking by younger prospects; Philippe Cornet. Cornet has played 4 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and now at the age of 21 (22 in March) is in his second AHL season.
Photo courtesy of Candace Riley all rights reserved.
Last season, due in part to the numbers game and in part due to Cornet’s ability and where he was in his development, Cornet found himself a healthy scratch to through the Barons’ inaugural playoff run.
This season after coming to camp leaner and fitter, Cornet is leading the AHL in scoring with 15 goals and 3 assists through 20 games. His goal? A call-up to his NHL club, the Edmonton Oilers.
“That’s what I want. I will keep working hard here until I get my chance and get a call-up. Like we always say, you’ve got to control what you can control and I don’t control what they decide. I can only control what I do on the ice and I want to keep playing the way I am and I hope that I get a call up soon.” Cornet tells Barons insider Chris Westcott.
Because there is only so much you can tell about a player from a stats sheet, and because I only get to see a small portion of Barons games, I have invited comments from two people who follow the team quite closely.
The voice of the Barons, Jim Byers sees the Barons every game and spends time with the players while they travel. As such, Jim gets to know the players well, not just for their on ice play but also as people. Jim took the time to give me his thoughts on Cornet and his time with the Barons:
I always thought he had talent and his junior history shows he can score goals, but this year he’s become a force. He’s getting more chances on top lines this year and more power play time and he’s making the most of it. The coaches said right out of camp that he worked hard over the summer to get faster and stronger and it shows. It’s very promising that he seems very resilient. Here’s a player that was with us all last year, but had to watch the playoffs because he was left off the clear day roster.
Then he was a healthy scratch for the season opener and once he gets in scores 15 goals in his first 20 games to lead the league. He’s scored on the road, at home, even strength, whatever. Most of his goals come from traffic areas and that means he’s paying the price. He’s been a complete player and not just someone hunting for points.
There are still several players on the Oklahoma City Barons’ team the Oilers would have short listed for call-ups such as Ryan Keller and Gilbert Brule, so I asked Jim who might be more likely to receive a call next.
I don’t like to speculate on a player’s likelihood of being called up or the timetable for it, because those are personnel decisions made by career hockey people, not radio guys. I root for everybody to get to the next level including broadcasters. I will say some promotions have as much to do with a team’s specific need at the time rather than who is actually having the best year or playing the best. I’ve seen it over the years in two sports that teams will sometimes wait to promote a younger, less proven player until he’s ready to step into his primary role and play regularly. If a team has a temporary need, they might be inclined to call on guys that are more of a known quantity, even if they’re not having as good a year statistically. Of course, that can go out the window in times of multiple injuries or in certain waiver situations.
Neal Livingston is a true southern gentleman and hockey fan who has been following the Barons closely from their very first day. Neal may be a Stars fan, but I think that the excitement of the Oilers and their affiliation with the Barons may slowly be breaking him down.
After a so-so rookie season, and a scratch through the entire first round playoff series against Hamilton, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Philippe Cornet. Then I saw him in Oilers training camp and preseason in OKC, and it was clear that he was a completely different player. He was quicker, leaner, and much stronger. He worked very hard on the things that needed tinkering in the offseason and it has paid off.
His league leading shooting percentage and goals scored is quite remarkable. Both are tops in the league because he has the keen awareness of when to crash the net. He has made a living in front of the goaltenders crease for the duration of the season.
As the season grinds on I’ll be anxious to see if he can keep pace, if so, he’ll have one of the best sophomore seasons of an American Leaguer or Oilers prospect in quite some time.
Another Barons columnist living in Oklahoma City is Eric Rodgers. Eric writes a weekly Barons update for Copper & Blue and as such has great insight to the team as well.
In the first half of last season, Cornet was pretty much invisible. Shuffling between the third and fourth lines, it may have just been his role. When he got the chance to play on scoring lines during last year’s injury troubles, there were some flashes of good things but not a lot to get me excited. I don’t know if it was the motivation to get back in the line-up, or something just started clicking, but he began the transformation towards the end of last season as he started scoring a point per game pace.
This year it’s really noticeable as he’s going straight to the net and searching for those rebounds and passes. His vision is greatly improved and he’s able to find those loose pucks pretty easily it seems.
This is Cornet’s second year of his entry level contract, so despite what most people saw last year, the Oilers development staff had to have had a hunch of what was to come. As a fifth round pick of the 2008 NHL entry draft, Cornet’s success even at the AHL level is great news for Oilers fans and hopefully just the first of many accomplishments.
Based on the feedback on Cornet, I would suspect that Cornet would need to keep up his production and if Cornet were to receive a call-up it may come at the end of the year as a reward for hard work.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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