SUN Hockey Pool

Chorney's ready to jump

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Taylor Chorney thought long and hard, wrestled many a pro and con, about whether or not to leave school a year early and sign with the Oilers, but the deciding factor might have been the old "If everyone else jumped off a bridge ... " analogy.

You know, like when you copied something your buddies did and your mom would say "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?"

Chorney's answer was yes.

He watched the likes of Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert and Sam Gagner in Edmonton, and a handful of rookies all around the NHL, jump from amateur to pro and figured hey, if everybody else is doing it, he should, too.

"That's huge," he said of the recent rookie success rate.

"I think there is a big youth movement in the NHL right now. Especially in the Oilers organization. You see a lot of young guys getting chances, whether they're getting called up or making the team right out of camp.

"I've talked to a lot of those guys too. Just to hear them say that it's not maybe as big a jump as everybody makes it out to be (helps)."

It wasn't easy leaving a program he'd grown to love. Senior year, big man on campus, the smooth skating defenceman had a lot of reasons to finish up his college career, but the lure of the professional ranks proved too much to resist.

"It was tough, especially the situation I was in in North Dakota," he said on the first day of Edmonton's prospect development camp at Millennium Place.

"I had so much fun there and I knew it would be a good situation if I went back. But it's kind of time. I played three years at school and I feel that I accomplished a lot of things there that I set out to do.

"I'm 21 years old now and something just clicked where I feel mentally it's time to go.

"I was always pretty confident that physically I was able to make the jump, but mentally you just have to make sure you're 100% ready because there's really no turning back."

He's not a pro, yet.

NO DEAL YET

He and the Oilers still haven't finalized a contract and if it falls through -- highly unlikely at this point -- he goes back to North Dakota.

But any day now he expects to put his signature on an entry level deal.

"It's pretty close now," he said, adding he can't wait.

"It's a dream for everybody to have hockey become their job. There's not too many people who can say that. You're getting paid to play something you love to do."

The Oilers are up to their visors in defencemen, but Chorney continues to create a buzz.

The second round pick in 2005 (11 spots after Andrew Cogliano) has upped his stock every year.

He was captain of the US World Junior team, posted 24 points in 43 games with North Dakota last season and skates like he was born on ice.

"He's coming out a great program," said Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast.

"He and Cogliano are the two guys we got in that draft and we consider both of them to be blue chip prospects."

It's a lot to ask of a 21-year-old to come in and play defence in the NHL (a much harder task than forward), but then again, nobody expected Gilbert to adjust as quickly as he did, either.

"It is tough, there's no doubt about it, it's a huge jump," said Prendergast.

"The odds are he'll probably have to start the year in Springfield, but I don't know that until training camp starts.

"We're not stupid -- if he's one of the best defencemen we'll make room for him here."

The way Chorney sees it, the sooner he gets started, the sooner he reaches his goal.

'GAME READY'

"Over the last three years I've been improving every year," he said.

"I feel my game is ready to be challenged and take the next step.

"You're going to be playing against men, bigger, stronger players, but some guys' games translate well and some don't. I guess we'll find out ... but I'm really looking forward to it."


Videos

Photos