His first NHL game, his first NHL point, his first AHL All-Star appearance, and his first … rodeo?
The Val-Senneville, Que., native, in his second season with the Edmonton Oilers organization after being drafted in the fifth round in 2008, has assimilated into the southern-cowboy culture of Oklahoma City while playing for the team's American Hockey League affiliate.
Spending some of his free time fishing and taking in the local entertainment, Cornet says he's well-established in his second home.
"I love it down here," he said. "The weather is great and the people are friendly and awesome. I've never lived in any other cities in the States besides this one, but I wouldn't go anywhere else."
With 22 goals and 32 points, Philippe Cornet
already has surpassed his offensive output from last season. (Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI)
And Oklahoma City seems to love him back. The left wing currently leads the Barons in goals with 22, including 10 on the power play, and is tied for the AHL lead with 6 game-winning goals.
With 22 goals and 32 points, he already has surpassed his offensive output from last season, his first in professional hockey, when he had 7 goals and 16 assists in 60 games.
"I think when I came this year, I had a lot more confidence and I just feel better on the ice overall," Cornet said of his offensive growth. "I've been getting a lot more ice time, too -- I play on the power play, which I didn't last year.
"Last year I probably just stayed more on the outside. I wouldn't go in those gritty areas like in front of the net and get those rebounds and compete for loose pucks, which I'm doing this year and I'm getting more goals like that."
In addition to his "more aggressive" offensive approach, Cornet also attributes his individual success to the strength of the Barons as a whole. In only its second season, Oklahoma City leads the AHL Western Conference with 75 points, which also ties it with the Norfolk Admirals for the most in the league.
"Having a good team helps, for sure," Cornet said. "This year we have a lot of depth. You can play on the first line or on the fourth line, but you're still going to play with good players."
The Barons' roster depth came into focus when a league-high four players were named to the Western Conference team. Joining Cornet were goaltender Yann Danis
, forward Ryan Keller
and defenseman Alex Plante
, as well as coach Todd Nelson.
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Abbotsford, Calgary's AHL affiliate, will play Thursday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, a motivating experience for many of the club's young players. READ MORE ›
"It was a great experience and a great honor for me," Cornet said of All-Star weekend, which was held in Atlantic City, N.J. "When I started this season, being in the All-Star Game wasn't part of my plans whatsoever. But it just shows how good of a team we are."
Before the game Jan. 30, Nelson gave Cornet even more good news: He was being recalled by Edmonton.
After helping the West to an 8-7 shootout victory, Cornet grabbed an early flight to Edmonton and made his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 31. In 10:53 of ice time, he had an assist -- his first NHL point -- in the 3-2 Oilers victory.
"Just being at All-Star was a lot of excitement, and then being called up, that was unreal," Cornet said. "For sure, I wasn't expecting having my first point in my first game. But then on my second shift, having my first assist, I couldn't ask for any better for my first game."
After two games with the Oilers -- and two wins -- Cornet made the near-1,500 mile trip back to Oklahoma City, where he has remained, putting up big numbers and preparing for the AHL playoff push.
"My main goal is the Calder Cup," he said. "We often talk about it in the room. Next year we won't have the same team, so what we have right now is something special. I think everyone's on board. Everyone thinks the same way, too.
"That's what we want. It's something you're never going to forget, something that you don't have the chance to win every year. I think this year we have all the tools in place to win it, and hopefully we will."
Author: Samantha Wood | Special to NHL.com