SUN Hockey Pool

School's in, Oilers

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

Pack up the book bag and head off to school. And don't forget the skates.

The Edmonton Oilers used four of their first five selections on players who are destined for the U.S. college ranks in yesterday's 2005 NHL entry draft in Ottawa.

Included in that group is the Oil's top choice, Andrew Cogliano, a centre from St. Michael's Catholic high school in Toronto who is headed to the University of Michigan.

"First of all, we liked them," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers' head scout and vice-president of hockey operations. "Secondly, we buy ourselves a little time with them going to school. It's sort of a ladder effect. A lot of time you like a player and his skill level gets a little extra time to develop."

Cogliano has put on 12 pounds over the summer, taking to him up to 187. But what he lacks in size he more than compensates for in speed.

Considered to be one of the fastest skaters in the draft, Cogliano was the MVP of the Ontario junior 'A' league and a finalist for the CJAHL player of the year, after notching 154 points in 78 overall games with the league-champion Buzzers.

"I couldn't be happier. The first jersey my mom bought for me when I was a kid was an Oilers one - number 99," said Cogliano from his home in Woodbridge, Ont.

MY FAVOURITE TEAM

"The Oilers were always my favourite team, with the Leafs - now it's just the Oilers.

"I talked to New Jersey and St. Louis pretty seriously and I thought they might pick me. I saw Edmonton come up and I didn't expect anything but I was hoping and praying they'd take me.

"When they announced it, the whole house erupted.

"I'm thrilled that a team like the Oilers would pick a player like me and I hope I can be an impact player for them. They like the skilled, speedy players so I think it's a perfect match."

Cogliano, who models his play after Joe Sakic, was the top scorer at the under-18 World Cup in 2004 and was second in scoring at the under-17 World Hockey Challenge. His play in both tournaments garnered him an invite to the Canadian national junior team's camp next month in Whistler, B.C.

With the revamped NHL featuring a clampdown on obstruction plus more free-flowing play thanks to no red line, the Oilers are banking on smaller, talented players like Cogliano being allowed to flourish.

SPEED AND SKILLS

"He fits the bill of the new style," said Prendergast. "The Oilers have always benefited from players with speed and skills, and if the rules are going to be called as they should, we wanted to load up with those type of players in our system."

The Oilers continued on their college-bound kick in Round 2, choosing defenceman Taylor Chorney from Shattuck-St. Mary's high school in Minnesota. He's set to join the University of North Dakota this fall.

After using the first of two third-round picks on overage London defenceman Danny Syvret, the Oilers went back to Minnesota for their next two selections.

Robbie Dee was an All-State first-teamer after a second consecutive 87-point season and the 185-pound left winger will play for Omaha of the USHL in 2005-06 before going to the University of Maine.

Edmonton's next pick was Moorhead high school defenceman Chris VandeVelde, a power forward type who will also join North Dakota following a year of junior in Lincoln.

Using their compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round for Phoenix signing Petr Nedved, the Oilers grabbed Russian centre Viatcheslav Trukhno, who scored 59 points in his rookie season with the Quebec League's P.E.I. Rocket.

With their final pick, the Oilers grabbed left-winger Matt Glasser from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, who will move to the University of Denver in 2006.


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