SUN Hockey Pool

Busted campaign

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Having already harvested Sam Gagner from last year's crop, the Edmonton Oilers can already call the 2007 NHL entry draft a smashing success. When you land a franchise player, as the 18-year-old Gagner seems destined to become, it's a great draft, no matter how the other guys you picked pan out.

But Edmonton's second pick last season wasn't a mere second rounder, it was 13th overall, leaving them in a unique position to score a double.

However, while everything Gagner touched turned to goals, the player they invested their second pick in, Alex Plante, found himself nursing a string of injuries while watching his season waste away to nothing.

It began with a charley horse at Oilers rookie camp and continued into his hard-luck season with the Calgary Hitmen.

"It started off with the charley horse, then the back injury, then a week and a half after I came back from the back, I had a concussion," said the six-foot-four, 225 pound blueliner, who was limited to 36 games, and wasn't all that effective when he came back.

"It was a bad luck year. I can't really go back and change it. I lost a lot of games, lost a lot of skating. It was very unfortunate.

"But you can't really change what happened," he continued. "It was very frustrating but hopefully it's over with now. The only thing I can do is look forward to next year. Hopefully next year's fortunes are a little bit better for me and I can stay away from that stuff."

So do the Oilers, who are hoping Plante can put the injuries behind him and make up for all the lost time.

"Last year was almost a write-off for him," said vice president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast.

"But he's come a long way from the end of the season. Mentally, he's over what happened and he's applied himself really hard this summer. He's got definition to his body now, he's getting stronger."

Plante, who'll return to the Hitmen this season, understands he almost has to start from scratch again to prove he isn't a busted pick.

"Absolutely," he said. "When you miss that much hockey it's never good for your development, but I want to show that I'm still capable, still learning, still developing."

The Oilers still believe he can be a towering force.

"He's 225 right now and there's nothing to him. He could conceivably go to 235, 240," said Prendergast. "It'll be a big year for him in junior, but he knows what he's up against. He's aware of how uphill the battle is going to be. But he's committed to going in the right direction."


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