Even though he was projected by NHL Central Scouting to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft tomorrow, Brandon's Alex Plante had a feeling his name might be called a lot sooner.
Sure enough, that happened last night in the opening round when the Edmonton Oilers selected Plante, a defenceman who plays in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen, with the 15th overall selection, which is higher than most of the pre-draft rankings predicted he would go. The Hockey News, interestingly, had him pegged at No. 15.
"I really have no complaints. I was just drafted to an unbelievable organization and I couldn't be happier," Plante said in an interview on the Oilers official website.
"It's unreal to stay in Canada right now and to be noticed as one of the higher draft picks."
Last season with the Hitmen, Plante tallied eight goals and chipped in 30 assists for 38 points in 58 games. He really poured it on in the playoffs when he scored five goals and six assists in 13 games.
"I really had no clue who had what interest in me," said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound rearguard. "I was a little caught by surprise. After the first couple of picks, I was starting to hang by the edge of my seat. As soon as I heard my name called, I couldn't be happier. It's an unreal feeling."
"It's really nice to get it over with, but the better part is throwing the Edmonton jersey over my head."
As far as becoming a fixture in the Oilers locker-room someday, Plante knows what he has to do to reach that level.
"I am just focusing on getting better right now," he said. "If I do get a chance to excel at the next level, I will just do what the coaches want me to. Right now I am a two-way defenceman and take care of my own zone first. I'm not afraid to get a little creative with the puck in the offensive zone."
Plante was one of three players the Oilers selected in the first round. Edmonton chose Sam Gagner of the London Knights with the sixth pick and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) forward Riley Nash with the 21st pick.
One day, Plante and his brother Tyler could be in the NHL together. A goalie, Tyler was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the 2005 draft. Now, Alex has bragging rights.
"You can say that," Alex said, "but he has a lot more money than me right now.
"We're competitive, but it works out to each others favour because we push each other. I've always got a goalie to shoot on."
Oilers head scout Kevin Prendergast said Plante was too good to pass up.
"We just liked the potential. He's 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. We feel he's probably gonna be 230, 235 when he's ready to play in the NHL, but his hockey sense is great."
Plante's father Cam was also a junior star with the Brandon Wheat Kings and had a long minor league career after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"He never got to go and my brother was in the lockout year, so they both came for the experience and the ride," Alex Plante said.
"Naturally, (my dad's) got the offensive skills. He's trying to teach me right now, and I'm gonna take in all the little things he can give me and combine our games together and hopefully it goes to my advantage."
Other Manitobans who could be drafted this weekend include Snowflake's Justin Falk, Brandon's Andrew Clark and Winnipeg's Jason Gregoire.
FUTURE MOOSE?: The Manitoba Moose parent club Vancouver Canucks selected Patrick White of the Tri-City Storm (USHL) with the 25th overall pick. In 12 games, he had eight goals and nine points in an injury-riddled season.