Plante wants to sprout roots

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Alex Plante feels as though he's back on track.

The Edmonton Oilers prospect was able to bounce back strong this past season, after a disastrous 2007-08 campaign.

Things started to go south on the six-foot-four, 225-pound defenceman shortly after the Oilers took him with their second pick of the first round (15th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

"Just to get back and help my team by being able to play a lot of minutes was good for me," said Plante, currently attending the Oilers development camp in Sherwood Park. "I was trying to make up for lost time."

Plante's nightmare season started when he was injured early into his first Oilers training camp. It was literally a pain in the butt (glute injury) that knocked him out of camp, and set him back for his season with the Calgary Hitmen.

He then suffered a back injury, which sidelined him even further. Then when he finally did get back, he was drilled from behind and knocked out of the lineup with a concussion.

He finished the year with just two points in 36 games.

It got so bad in Calgary, the Brandon, Man., native requested a trade, thinking a change of venue might change his luck.

Eventually Plante relented -- after a talk with the Oilers -- and went back to have a strong season with the Hitmen, helping the club make it to the WHL final, where they were upset by the Kelowna Rockets.

"I think it was a pretty successful year," Plante said. "As a team we were looking to get to the Memorial Cup and we thought we had a good chance to get there. But obviously we didn't come through with that opportunity, but you have to hand it to Kelowna, they played really well in the final."

BEST TEAM

The Hitmen were the best team through the regular season, losing just nine games on their way to a 122-point season. They had also cruised through the playoffs until being upset by the upstart Rockets.

Plante, 20, went back to being a stalwart on the Hitmen blue line, scoring eight goals and adding 37 assists in 68 games during the regular season. He added another 15 points in 18 playoff games.

"I wouldn't say it was tough to bounce back at all," Plante said. "On the physical side it was difficult, but mentally I didn't lose the passion for the game at all.

"I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I wasn't blaming everybody. I just felt I had to get back in there and start fresh. Everybody at the start of the year has to earn a spot on the team and that's how I approached it. I felt I went into their training camp in the right state of mind, stayed healthy and took advantage of my opportunities. Obviously I have to be thankful for the coaching staff in Calgary for helping me get back and really pushing me to the next level."

Despite being eligible to go back to junior as an over-aged player, it's likely Plante will graduate to the professional ranks next season.

He's primed to come in and have a strong training camp with the Oilers with perhaps an outside shot at a roster spot. In all likelihood, however, he'll spend the season with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Springfield.

"I'm literally coming into camp with no expectations," Plante said.

"Obviously, the ultimate goal is to play for the Oilers. Having said that, that's completely their decision, but I just want to put myself in the best position to try and make the team. Whatever happens after that, it's ultimately their call."

GOOD IMPRESSION

This will be Plante's third training camp with the Oilers. He's hoping to try and make a good impression with the club.

"Last year at camp, I felt a little bit behind, getting thrown in there from the year I had before, it was a little tougher," he said. "Hopefully from what I contributed last year and the amount I played last year will help coming into this camp.


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