a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

10/25/11 The Potter Experiment

For the moment, let's all forget about the fate of some other defensemen who wore #44 for the Oilers, and assume that Corey Potter's career is going to follow a kinder, friendlier path. Just who is this Potter fellow anyway?

Quick bio for those who don't know:

- Born in Lansing, Michigan on January 5th 1984, which makes him 27 years old
- Drafted in the 4th round (122nd overall) in 2003 by NYR
- Some notables who were selected after Potter in 2003: Kyle Quincey, Lee Stempniak, Brad Richardson, Bruno Gervais, Joe Pavelski, Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Moulson, Jaroslav Halak
- Potter is 6'3" and 206 pounds

So what took Potter so long to reach the NHL? There were a number of factors. Tom Renney said Potter simply got caught in a numbers games in New York, but the 2003 draftee didn't turn pro until the 2006-07 season. He played 4 years for Michigan State University before that, picking up 44 points in 150 games.

Interestingly, Potter's totals were modest - to say the least - in his first three years of CCHA hockey with MSU. Over that span he collected just 22 points in 105 games. Then, in his final year there he picked up 4-18-22 in just 45 games (also the highest single season number of games played in his career to that point).

He debuted with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL in 2006-07 scoring 6-13-19 in 43 games and earned a 30 game callup to the Hartford Wolfpack of the American Hockey League. While there he bagged 2-8-10. In 2007-08 he played his first full year in Hartford, scoring 5-27-32 in 80 games, as well as a sparkling plus-33 rating. However, he showed a propensity to take penalties and had 102 PIMs that year. His PIMs decreased every season from that time on, until he got them down to 52 PIMs last year with Wilkes-Barre.

Over Potter's AHL career, he's collected 28 goals and 111 assists for 139 points in 321 games (0.43 p/g), and posted a  plus-88 rating. He was never a minus player in any of his AHL seasons.

So far Potter is averaging 3:36 of powerplay time per game with the Oilers, which is more than any other player on the team, and just 1:21 of penalty kill time, which is good for 11th. He's 8th on the Oilers in even strength ice time per game at 14:58, which is 6th among the 8 defensemen Edmonton has used. Only Andy Sutton and Theo Peckham have averaged less ice time at even strength. All told, he's averaging nearly 20 minutes per game, but a decent chunk of that has been relatively cushy powerplay time.

He's played well enough to deserve to be in the Oilers' lineup, but his presence also helps to shift everyone else back into their proper positions. Ladislav Smid, for example, averaged 45 seconds of PP time per game last year, and needless to say that's not Laddy's area of expertise. Sometimes there simply was no other option. Smid also played 2:40 of PK time per game in 2010-11. This year Smid has played only 3 seconds on the powerplay per game, while he's averaged 4:32 on the PK. That's thanks in part to the fact that the Oilers can deploy Potter for some of the softer minutes, and that Potter has been very capable in how he's used that time.

Five games is a very small sample size, but Potter may be a player who is ready to step in full time. He's not so much a late bloomer as he is a seasoned veteran - he simply didn't learn the ropes in the NHL like other players often do. It should be noted that that method of developing D-men has served Nashville well, and has contributed to their seemingly never-ending pipeline of quality blueliners. After another thirty games or so we'll know if Potter is legit.



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