SUN Hockey Pool

Chorney's choice

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

It was essentially a formality.

Taylor Chorney had already made the decision to forgo his final year of college hockey and turn pro.

Yesterday, however, it became official as the former North Dakota Fighting Sioux star signed a three-year entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. He'll be attending training camp this fall.

"We had actually agreed to a contract back when they had the rookie camp, but I couldn't officially sign until July 1," Chorney said.

"I had made the decision to turn pro at the end of the season. I think it was time to move on to the next level."

Chorney, 21, was the Oilers second pick (36th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot, 196-pound defenceman spent three years at North Dakota helping the Fighting Sioux qualify for the NCAA Frozen Four tournament, scoring three goals and adding 21 assists in 43 games this season.

The product of Hastings, Minnesota, who was born in Thunder Bay, Ont., is a two-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-star and last season was a conference first-time all-star.

Chorney also played for the United States at two world junior championships and was captain of the bronze-medal winning side in 2007.

"It's going to be tough leaving school, I had a great three years there, played with a lot of good guys and made a lot of good friends," he said.

"But I'm looking forward to becoming a professional hockey player."

Having completed three of four years at North Dakota, Chorney plans on taking courses throughout the summer months to complete his degree. It was a promise he made to his parents.

He'll be in tough to earn a spot on the Oilers roster this fall, but is not conceding anything.

"I think it's going to come down to how I do in camp," he said.

"I'd like to think there is a chance to make the team, but if I have to go down to the minors to work on my game I'm willing to do that."

It's rare for a defenceman to come straight out of college and make an impact at the NHL. Making it tougher is the fact the Oilers head into the season solid on the back end.

"The biggest adjustment is going to be getting used to the size and the speed of the guys," Chorney said. "It's also going to be different playing an 80-game schedule. That's really a mental grind and something I'll have to get used to."

JAGR ON RADAR

After taking a big cut and missing on Marian Hossa, the Oilers are still in the market for a big-name free agent forward.

Jaromir Jagr is considered to be the next target on their radar.

"There is a couple of players at that level out there," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe on Wednesday. "When you're negotiating at this time of year it's pretty interesting because you always have to factor in that you might not get the player. There are some other players that we are interested in, I'll just leave it at that."

Yesterday in a conference call to announce the signing of Markus Naslund, New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather all but closed the door on Jagr's return to the Big Apple.

It is believed Jagr is considering offers from the Russian league as well.

"I talked to Jaromir today and waited for a call the last couple of days and nothing happened, so we decided they were going to move on," Sather said.

"I gave him the information that we are going to move on at this time. I couldn't wait any longer."

Oil take swing at Georges

Georges Laraque came close to returning to Edmonton but instead elected to play for the team he grew up idolizing.

Yesterday Laraque, 31, signed a three-year, $4.5-million deal with the Montreal Canadiens.

It had come down to a choice between the Canadiens and Oilers for the six-foot-three, 243-pound winger.

Laraque, a native of Montreal, was drafted by the Oilers and played eight seasons in Edmonton before moving on to play with the Phoenix Coyotes and then the Pittsburgh Penguins.


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