Plante hopes to grow on Oilers

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:29 AM ET

EDMONTON - Alex Plante doesn’t see the window closing.

The Edmonton Oilers prospect would rather be playing in the NHL by now, but at 22, feels he still has time to develop.

“That seems to be a common question, but I don’t see any window closing,” Plante said. “I feel more mature and I feel like I’ve been around and I’m more comfortable. I’m hoping that helps for a better performance, and the more confidence I have in myself to be out there to make plays, the more confidence the GM and the head coach will have in me being out there.”

Selected by the Oilers in first round — 15th overall — of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Plante was projected to one-day anchor the team’s blue line.

The six-foot-four, 240-pounder has the tools to be an effective shutdown defenceman, but has not impressed enough at the minor-league level to get a long look in the NHL.

Heading into training camp this season, Plante is hoping to extend his stay long enough for the coaching staff to get a proper assessment of whether he’s close to becoming and everyday defenceman

“The approach coming into camp as you get older is a little different,” Plante said. “When you first come in you always wonder what the coaches are thinking, what the GM is thinking, but as you go on, you have more of a relaxed demeanor and you come in and just try to play and prove that you’re capable of contributing, and that’s something I want to do this year.”

A former standout in junior with the Calgary Hitmen, Plante scored a pair of goals and added 15 assists in 73 games last season with the Oklahoma City Barons.

He was called up to play three games with the Oilers, failing to register a point with a minus-two rating.

“As a professional athlete there is always room for improvement and if you’re not hard on yourself you’re not going to develop as quickly as you can,” Plante said. “I really would have liked to develop quicker, but I don’t want to rush anything and put myself into a spot where I don’t get an opportunity to develop. I’m trusting that this organization has my best interest at heart and they give me the proper amount of ice-time, wherever it may be, and I’m just excited to come to the rink every day work hard, try to get better and try to make the big club.”

The Oilers are willing to be patient with Plante.

In comparison to other defencemen in the organization, the Brandon, Man., native is at similar stages of development as Theo Peckham and Jeff Petry.

Both were chosen a year before Plante in the draft and are just beginning to establish themselves as NHL defencemen.

Peckham is heading into his first full season, while Petry played 35 games with the Oilers last year and is expected to challenge for a full-time spot on the blue line this season.

“It’s not easy. In all honesty defence is a hard position to learn over time,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I think once you get comfortable with who you are, and how to apply yourself under those circumstances, then the game will become a little more fluid for him and that’s what we’re looking for Alex.”

Plante was in the lineup on Thursday when the Oilers squared off against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place.

It’s expected he’ll play in at least a couple more exhibition games before a decision is made on whether he’ll be sent back to Oklahoma City this season.

“He needs opportunity and whenever he’s in the lineup he has to assert himself with his size and strength,” said Renney. “He actually has good mobility for a big guy, he’s got a good stick, he can shoot the puck well, he can pass the puck well and I think with most young guys, it comes a little slower with the defenceman, he has to process it and take it all in.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

@SUNdvandiest


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