SUN Hockey Pool

Cornet aims to build on Oilers debut

Oilers forward Philippe Cornet skates during a game against the Avalanche at Rexall Place in...

Oilers forward Philippe Cornet skates during a game against the Avalanche at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Jan. 31, 2012. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

EDMONTON - Tuesday proved to be an exciting night for Philippe Cornet, having made his NHL debut.

And now that the Edmonton Oilers call-up has had an opportunity to soak it all in, he hopes to build off the performance and perhaps stick around for a while.

“For the first game, I think (Tuesday) night’s game was pretty good,” said Cornet following practice Wednesday. “I think at times, the puck was rolling off my stick a little bit because I was a little bit nervous. But now that I know what the level of play is, I can start making more plays.

“Playing with (Jordan) Eberle and (Sam) Gagner, I think I’m expected to make more plays and be more confident out there, and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”

It took Cornet just two shifts to earn his first NHL point, picking up an assist on Eberle’s opening goal in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Cornet will be back in the lineup Thursday when the Oilers host the Chicago Blackhawks, and if all goes well, could then get an opportunity to see the Detroit Red Wings Saturday.

“For me it’s going to be a big moment getting to play against guys like (Jonathan) Toews, (Patrick) Kane and (Pavel) Datsyuk, if I get a chance to play against Detroit,” Cornet said. “But I think I just have to go out there and keep my game simple and play the way I’ve been playing. I can’t go out there and be impressed by them or else I won’t do well. I just want to go out there and help the team the best I can.”

Selected by the Oilers in the fifth round – 133rd overall – of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Cornet has been able to work on his game through four years of junior and two seasons in the minors.

The native of Val-Senneville, Que., credits the Oilers’ patience with his development for the strong campaign with the Barons and the impressive debut in Edmonton Tuesday.

“I think if I would have gotten an opportunity last year or the year before, I don’t think I would have been ready for it,” Cornet said. “You see some guys that are often rushed into the NHL that don’t perform or don’t do as well as they’re supposed to.

“I think just with the experience I got last year — which was a tough year for me, I had a lots of ups and downs and was in and out of the lineup — helped. The experience I gained there and the work I put in this summer has all paid off. I think I’m a different player. I grew up a lot in the last year and I’m excited to get the call here now.”

The Oilers themselves were waiting on the right moment to give Cornet a look.

Early in the season, the six-foot, 196-pound winger was lighting things up in the AHL, but was consistently passed over when the Oilers put out the call for reinforcements.

“It needed to be the right opportunity for him,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “He needed to be in the right place in the lineup for what he can do, in order to fit in.

“I didn’t want to bring a guy up that’s doing what he does offensively for that team and put him on the fourth line here. It’s also based on what your needs are and what you anticipate that player to be as an end product, and putting him in that right location when the time comes to bring him up.”

Having finished with 38 goals and 77 points in his final year of junior, Cornet has demonstrated an ability to put up impressive numbers offensively.

Not particularly big or exceedingly fast, Cornet does seem to have an innate ability to know where to go on the ice.

“I don’t really shoot from far away,” he said. “Most of my goals are from back door or working in front of the net. I got a couple of tips, a couple of rebounds, most of them are from in front of the net. I should probably start shooting from further away. My shot is actually pretty good, I just don’t use it enough.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

@SUNdvandiest


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