Bleacher Report writers Nick Frost and Sean Lennie present "Chances of Cracking The Oilers Lineup," a six-week series dedicated to determining which players on the bubble have a shot at of making the Edmonton Oilers' 2009-10 roster. Each week, we will examine a different youngster's chances—last week, we featured Theo Peckham; this week, defenseman Alex Plante.
As far as future Oilers defensemen go, most people have heard of Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney and Jeff Petry; but this last season has given rise to another young defensive talent in the organization: Alex Plante.
Plante, the number one defenseman in Calgary after Karl Alzner's departure quickly made an impact last season. He put up 8 goals and 45 points in 68 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
The 6'5'', 225 lbs defender is an imposing figure on the blueline. He plays an all-around game and has drawn comparisons to Souray and Gilbert. He does not shy away from the physical side of the game either. Many scouts have him pegged to be a second pairing defenseman in the NHL.
Big, strong defenseman who can out muscle opposing forwards in his own end and contribute on the offensive side with great passing skills and excellent offensive awareness.
He can play both powerplay and penalty kill minutes and can handle large amounts of ice time. In the NHL those traits translate to reliability. As well he has a rocket shot from the point which, with his passing game, means that he can be either the PP quarterback or sniper.
He also does not back down from opponents as he demonstrated with his fight against Brett Breitkreuz of the Oil Kings (not the most exciting fight ever, but he shows he can take one for the team).
He lost almost a full year in 07/08 with multiple injuries. This has put him at a disadvantage in the organization because he is less experienced than many of the other candidates.
He is a decent skater—especially for his size—but his is not as agile as many of the smaller, shiftier players out there and as such he is vulnerable to that kind of play.
Plante's main opposition to make the Oilers squad are the players that have already been there. Theo Peckham, who has played several games for the Oilers, seems to have made an impression on management. He is the biggest competition that Plante will face.
Next is Taylor Chorney who, like Peckham, has already played for the big club and came off with a pretty good review. Both are physical defenseman which the club seems to be short on at the moment.
The only leg up that Plante has on these guys is that he can step in on the powerplay should injuries reek havoc on the Oilers (God forbid). However, that would take some serious divine intervention which is something no Oiler fan is eager to see.
So, what are his chances?
In a word: bad. Less than 5%.
Plante is going to have to come into training camp and blow away the coaching staff. He has to make a huge impression on the staff and show that he can out play the starters—a tall order for anyone.
Not only that but he is one of the most inexperienced players at camp this year. Most of his opposition will have played pro at one level or another. Even Johan Motin has played in the Swedish Elite League which is comparable with the AHL in skill level.
He also has to contend with the fact that there are no starter spots available currently. Even the 7th spot is filled with Jason Strudwick, Ladislav Smid or Steve Staios.
However, its not all bad news for Alex. He is one of the few players in the prospect pool who are offensively gifted. While some of you might be saying "with the number of offensive minded defenseman on the team, how is that a good thing?". To Plante, that means that if one of those players goes down to injury, he is in prime position to take that spot.
Even if Plante does not make the team this year he will be in contention in future years. Oilers fans, watch out for this one, he should be a solid Oiler blueliner in the years to come.
Be sure to check out Part Five next week, when Nick Frost takes an in-depth look at why Rob Schremp will not make the team.