Defenseman, claimed on waivers Tuesday was nearly a Blue six years ago
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They say a person's life can change in a whim. This is particularly the case for professional athletes.
Take Taylor Chorney for instance. One minute, he was prepping for a trip back to the American Hockey League. The next minute, his career path changed with a phone call.
"To go from getting put on waivers and thinking I was heading to Oklahoma City and then to find out I was headed to St. Louis ... a team that's a contender and I've got some buddies here, I feel very blessed and looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity," said Chorney, a defenseman who was claimed by the Blues on waivers from the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday. "I feel very lucky for this opportunity."
Former Oilers defenseman Taylor Chorney (right) will join former college
teammates T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter in St. Louis after being claimed on
Instead of heading to the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City, the 24-year-old was in his pickup truck making the 7-8 hour drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul into the Gateway City, saving about five hours of drive time. Chorney was making his way to the Blues' practice facility Wednesday morning in a reunion of sorts with fellow North Dakota Fighting Sioux teammates T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter. The trio formed what could now be dubbed the 'Sioux Clique.'
"I've already been taking a little bit of heat from the boys about that," Chorney said laughing. "We've got a Sioux clique going already. ... It's nice to come to a spot where there are ever two familiar faces. That'll go a long way fitting in with the team for sure."
Porter said joking, "I wouldn't call it a clique. We're getting razzed from the boys already.
"It's great to have him," he said. "I've played with him quite a few years in North Dakota. I've known him since Shattock (St. Mary's) in high school. He's a good defenseman."
If one doesn't believe they are already going with the clique, it didn't take long to change those notions on the ice.
"There's actually a drill out there that we all got together going down the ice," Oshie said. "It was pretty sick, but it's great to see.
"This is a great guy, a hard worker. You can tell he loves the game ... last guy off the ice out there already."
It's been an adventurous journey to the NHL for Chorney, a second-round pick (36th overall) by the Oilers in 2005. In fact, Chorney was so close to becoming property of the Blues in the draft before the Oilers grabbed him out of Shattock-St. Mary's in Minnesota.
The Blues were looking for a defenseman with their second-round pick, which happened to be right behind the Oilers at No. 37. The Blues chose Oshie with their No. 1 pick (24th overall). If Chorney was available, he was apparently going to be the guy. But when Chorney went to Edmonton at No. 36, the Blues went for defenseman Scott Jackson of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds. Jackson never saw a minute in a Blues uniform.
Six years later, Chorney is wearing the Blue Note and No. 43.
"It's still kind of surreal actually," Oshie said of his close friend. "We've been talking about it for the last three years or so how nice it would be to play together again. ... We could have been playing together. But it's definitely great to unite. Just seeing him puts a smile on my face. He's a great guy."
Chorney's played in two-plus seasons (56 games) in the NHL and totaled one goal and six assists, with one goal and three of those assists coming last season in 12 games with the Oilers before a knee injury sidelined the left-hander.
But one way or another, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native never quite seemed to fit into the Oilers' plans.
"I don't know. That's tough," Chorney said when asked why it never worked out in Edmonton. "I kind of got caught in maybe the transition of things. The first couple years I was there wasn't really rebuilding and last year, they were rebuilding and there were more guys coming in. I just think I was in between for them. They had some prospects they wanted to look at. I guess I already had my look.
"A change of scenery is probably going to be a really good thing for me. I'm looking forward to it."
Blues coach Davis Payne, who said Chorney can be plugged into the lineup at any time, is someone the Blues have liked.
"We feel like he's a guy back there who can defend with his feet, who can get to plays quickly, whether it's offensively or defensively," Payne said. "From the standpoint of being mobile, I think that's his biggest strength.
"It's Day 1 and where he fits into our schemes, there's going to have to be some learning that he's going to have to do there. Good attitude, good worker, adds depth."
Chorney, who says he can give the Blues a good-skating, puck-moving defenseman from the left side who takes advantage of his speed, can also blend into a locker room and offer some character there as well.
Blues winger T.J. Oshie (74) is elated to have former college teammate
Taylor Chorney join the Blues.
"He's a great player, a really great locker room guy, too," said Oshie, who played with Chorney in the 2010 World Championships with Team USA. "You can tell already that he's getting along great with all the guys.
"I think given the right opportunity, he could be a great player. He's a good all-around d-man. He's a really good skater. He works hard in his own zone but at the same time, he can makes plays at the other end of the ice.
"I haven't played with him in a couple years, but we got a little time together at the World Championships. I thought he played really well over there a couple summers ago."
Chorney will likely be a depth guy here with the Blues for the time being, but nevertheless, it was evident that the shuttle between Edmonton and Oklahoma City was wearing on him.
"It's tough," said Chorney, who can easily fit in here with at least two familiar faces in Oshie and Porter. "Everybody's kind of got their journey. You've got guys that step into the league when they're 18 and never look back, or you've got guys like me who go up and down a dozen times before they stick. I'm hoping this is the time where I can seize the moment and stick."
Which makes Chorney eager to prove the Blues were right for claiming him instead of proving the Oilers wrong for letting him go.
"I was nervous," Chorney admitted. "Not too many guys get picked up on waivers. Even for me, I thought I've got to go ahead and regroup and head down to the American League, dominate and that's how I'll get my chance.
"I was lucky where the Blues stuck their neck out for me. They must have saw something the last few years they liked. I'm looking to contribute."