Thursday, June 28, 2012

NMU Invite Looks to Impress Oilers

34 players are expected to take part in Edmonton's summer development camp including 8 free agents. The lone goaltender in that group isn't hard to miss, he's the giant goaltender in "olive green and old gold" named Jared Coreau

The Canadian born pipeman will be a junior at Northern Michigan in 2012-13 but if he has his way, there may be another option on his table before too long. 

The NMU Wildcats are coached by Walt Kyle, a name familiar to long time Oilers fans because of his days spent as head coach of the former AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs. It's a connection that has stayed strong and the bench boss asked Coreau to pass on messages to his old Oiler colleagues.  

“Before the camp he said there will be a lot of guys saying hello to him and stuff like that. He made sure that I returned the favor for him so I’ve been going around trying to find all the guys he wanted me to say hi to," smiled Coreau, "The funniest was Ken and Kevin Lowe; Ken said ‘Hi from the good looking one’, but I think Kevin might have something to say on that one."

Coreau has a late '91 birthdate which would have made him elgible for the 2010 NHL Draft. That season the native of Perth Ontario was a member of the Lincoln Stars of the USHL but didn't post numbers that would attract many NHL teams. He ended the year with a record of 7-22-4, a save percentage of .882 and a bloated 3.62 goals against average.

I asked Coreau how the invite to this camp came about.  

"My agent, or my family advisor, he was talking [about options] throughout the year and just let my parents know," Coreau said about the Oilers, "There was some communication with my coach also and then they sent me an email to start with. Then I got a call from Ricky Olczyk who told me that he wanted me to come to camp." 

"It’s a great honor and I wouldn’t say ‘no.’ I thanked him for the opportunity and now I have to make the best of it." 

After an impressive year with the Wildcats which included a .928 sv% and 2.22 GAA, the Oilers were not the only team sniffing around and in fact, last summer was much the same for Coreau.

"There have been other teams," the goalie admitted, "Last summer I went to the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks camp. I just figured there was a week gap in between them and that I may as well get a little extra training in during the summer. I’ve talked to Calgary a few times, Anaheim... but nothing quite like with the Oilers. They seemed to be really interested, at least I hope, because it's a great organization and I love it so far."

Attending two pro camps in one off season? If that doesn't speak to a player's dedication and work ethic I don't know what does. It's also a great way for a free agent to showcase his talents which leads to the next question: is there another camp awaiting him in July?
Coreau, a very likeable and well-spoken guy, took a quick look around before smiling.

"I didn’t want to say anything but I’m going to Calgary’s camp too so... I was going to keep that on the down-low for the time being."

The Flames are slated to hold their own summer sessions within the next ten days and although the list of expected attendees hasn't been made public, no one would hold it against Coreau that he's putting as many irons in the fire as he can. He's a free agent and he's doing what he has to do at this time of year to get noticed.

And besides, if the Oilers want to, they can sign him before the Flames camp. 

Photo: Matt Keiser
2011-12 was a solid year for Coreau and the goalie attributes much of that success to his tandem partner at NMU, Reid Ellingson.

"At the beginning of the year we knew that it was going to be a battle and our coach told us that it’s healthy to have that competition," Coreau explained, "Reid is a great goalie and he started out very strong, he was 3-0 and I was 1-1-1 so I sat for 4 games in a row. Then he had a couple of games where he wasn’t playing his best hockey, I came in and I went on a 6-game winning streak. From there I was getting more games." 

It was an up and down year for the team but the Wildcats managed to finish in the middle of the CCHA conference standings with an overall winning percentage of .541. There were challenges though for the team on an individual and group level.

"It was a big year for us but it was kind of a disappointment; we had three seniors and one of them, his dad passed away, bless his soul, but it was just a rough year," he added, "Then we got beat out in the first round again by Bowling Green. Overall it was good though."

After two years at the NCAA level, Coreau was able to look back and see the areas in his development that have been key for him.

"When I first got there, I had to adjust to the shots; I found that everyone was shooting harder and the releases were much quicker," he said.  "The big thing, I’m not just satisfied with being big – I want to move as fast as the smaller guys, I want to move as fast as Shawn Hunwick who is only 5’6."

Easier said than done. Hunwick nearly stole the show at the 2011 Frozen Four for the Michigan Wolverines and was a star the past two years in college hockey. But trying to imagine 6'5 Jared Coreau playing like 5'6 Hunwick is akin to asking Chewbacca the Wookie to blend in with the Ewoks. 

That said, Coreau knows that he has natural assets that he can take advantage of.  

"That was a big thing for me, my lateral movement, but also not to get so low," he continued, "I have a big frame so I may as well use as much of it as I can. My goalie coach [at NMU], Joey Shawhan, and my goalie coach at home, Andy Mercer, they coordinate with each other and we work on stick handling a lot and a lot of positioning."

It's always interesting to me what steps led a Canadian to play in the USHL. Regular readers here and listeners of The Pipeline Show already know that I hold the USHL in higher regard than most north of the border so it's not meant as a slight on the league at all. I simply am curious as to how Canadian players discover the league and end up playing there.

Photo: Brandon Anderson
Coreau's story is a unique one to me.  

"My mom actually investigated it," he sheepishly said, "I applied for the showcase in Chicago, I got in and was put on a random team with random people. I had a really good showcase, I think I had 3 shutouts in 5 games, and then the Lincoln Stars and the coach at the time (Jim McGroarty) called me. The other teams that were interested were just sending emails but he added that personal touch. I went down to their camp, had a stellar camp and then from there it was the place to be and then I got my offer from Northern Michigan."

For those who aren't as familiar with the USHL, the home arena of the Lincoln Stars is known as The Ice Box. While attending the USHL Top Prospects Game this past January, I was told story after story, usually about the first experience finding the rink located on a fair ground in what is literally an old barn. 

I couldn't help but ask Coreau to give me one word to describe the Ice Box. 

Photo: Brandon Anderson
"Nuts!" he said, "It’s the best place in hockey for the player introductions. I think every player should go there just to get an introduction. They fill it every night, the laser show was phenomenal. I don’t know how the other team stayed on the ice and didn’t run off. I loved it, great atmosphere."

This coming season is the final one for the CCHA before the marquee programs leave to join either the Big Ten or NCHC in 2013-14. The leftover clubs, including Northern Michigan, will move to the WCHA which will also lose most of its current major members to the same two new conferences. 

The changes don't sit well with Coreau.

"I’m really happy with what it is now," he sighed, "We play big teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Miami... I’m kind of disappointed that it’s breaking up. Nothing against the teams that we’ll be joining [in the WCHA] but I think Northern will be one of the superior teams in that league. That will be good for Northern and it will be easier to get into the tournament out of our league but I’m hoping to have a good year and that something hockey wise will happen. If it takes 4 years then it takes 4 years. I have to be ready and I have to feel confident in myself before I move on."

Take from that what you will but to me it sounds like a guy who is doing everything he can do earn a contract offer sooner as opposed to later. Coreau's got a lot of interested teams keeping tabs on him but the ball is in Edmonton's court right now. 

What will they do with it?

Camp Notes

Photos: Andy Devlin
- I Watched Day 1 of camp alongside the voice of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Corey Graham. As he pointed out, Nail Yakupov and Kristians Pelss look like they could be brothers.  The duo worked several drills together.

- There is a LOT of size on the ice at this camp. How big are the Oilers prospects now? Newly recruited power forward Mitch Moroz, who stands out on the Oil Kings roster at 6'2 and 210 lbs, looks down right average size here.

- On the other end of the spectrum, Kyle Bigos is so massive he almost looks out of place. At 6'5 and nearly 240 lbs, the Merrimack blueliner is an absolute monster. 

- Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat were pretty much tied to the hip. The Slovaks are terrific friends so it's no surprise to see the two defencemen engaged in conversation at every stoppage.

- Goaltender Olivier Roy did not skate with the rest of the group on Wednesday. He told me that he injured his back last week while training in the weight room. According to the 2009 5th round pick, it's nothing serious and he hopes to be on the ice by the weekend.

- I spoke with someone last week, not with the Oilers, who told me that former Sudbury Wolves captain Zack Stortini was in town for the summer. The person also suggested that the former Oiler may be looking for a camp invite in the fall should he not receive a qualifying offer from Nashville. I have no first hand knowledge that Stortini is in fact in Edmonton but the very personable pugilist was cut loose by the Predators so I thought it was worth mentioning. How would Oiler fans react to seeing both Stortini and Georges Laraques back at an Edmonton camp in the fall?     

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