Philippe Cornet is a quiet young man, earnest and sincere, and lurking beneath all that seriousness is a very good sense of humor. Cornet joined the Oklahoma City Barons last season and played 60 games, with 7 goals and 16 assists. But what a difference a season makes! Being scratched during last season’s playoffs motivated Cornet and this season we are seeing the rewards of his drive and competitive edge. Until his injury, Cornet was the leading scorer of the AHL this season, and currently he is ranked 6th in the league with 20 goals and 5 assists. OKC fans were not surprised to see his name among those playing in the AHL All-Star game at the end of this month and we eagerly look forward to the remainder of Cornet’s second season in Oklahoma City.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Philippe Cornet for participating in this interview, and also, thanks to Neal Livingston for tossing a few of the more interesting questions into the mix! Thanks also to Steven Christy for allowing the use of his photos, and to Josh Evans for arranging the OKC Barons interviews.
- Philippe Cornet – No. 15
- Position: Left Wing
- Born: 03/28/1990
- Height: 6-0
- Weight: 196
- Origin: Val-Senneville, Quebec, Canada
Interview with Philippe Cornet – December 27, 2011
PT: You grew up in Val-Senneville, Quebec. Were you born there? Tell us more about your hometown.
Cornet: I was born in Val-d’Or, which is about 15 minutes away. That is the main town in that region where I live. I have lived in Val-Senneville since I was born. Val-d’Or isn’t really big, there’s probably 45,000 people living there. It’s not a big city, not like Oklahoma City. We have a junior team in my home town that I grew up a fan of, and I live next to a lake so I like to spend a lot of time boating and water ski, things like that.
PT: Why hockey? What caught your interest about hockey?
Cornet: When I was real young my dad put me in hockey and I guess I just started to like it. The first couple of years I was behind everyone back home, I wasn’t very good and I was probably one of the worst skaters there. As I got a bit older I started to like it, it was all about hockey and I just couldn’t do anything else.
PT: How long have you been playing – from what age?
Cornet: When I first started playing hockey I was 4.
PT: Did your dad play hockey, or are any of your family active in hockey in some way?
Cornet: My dad played hockey – until midget AA, I think it was called back then – and then he had to choose between hockey and school so he quit. He probably wanted his sons to play hockey. I have two sisters and my youngest sister played hockey for a year when she was really young – she decided she wanted to try – and my parents put her into hockey for one season and then she quit.
PT: Did you grow up watching hockey?
Cornet: I grew up watching my hometown junior team back home and I was a Habs fan too. The Habs games on TV are very big in Quebec.
PT: I expect you make an effort to watch the Habs and Bruins games then?
Cornet: Oh, yes, those are the best. [laughing] And often they play each other in the playoffs. It is exciting to most Quebecers, everybody gets into it, and it’s like a religion. It’s good!
PT: So the Montreal Canadiens are your favorite team. What about favorite players?
Cornet: Growing up I always liked Dany Heatley and that is why I am wearing number 15 now. I wore number 15 probably the first time when I was 12 or 13 years old. That was the reason I picked the number and I have just stuck with it. I just always liked the way he played and when I was younger I was trying to be like him, playing the same style. For sure, he is a world-class player, one of the best players in the world and I just like his style of play.
PT: What hobbies do you have – other than hockey?
Cornet: I like to play golf. I would say one of my favorite things is sitting at home with my roommate and we just watch TV shows, and talk and laugh, just relax on a day off. It is fun just to relax and do nothing. In the summer, like I said, I am at the lake with the boat and all my friends like to water ski, wake board and stuff like that. I spend a lot of time outside.
PT: Have you been able to play golf here?
Cornet: Yes, I have played twice this year. Now it is colder, but when it gets warmer I’ll try to get a couple of rounds going.
PT: How would you describe yourself – what kind of person are you?
Cornet: I would describe myself as someone who has a lot of friends. I get along with everyone. I’m really ambitious. Not only in hockey, but I like to win. I like to compete. I always want to do better. Sometimes it can be bad, but I think for the most part it is good.
PT: What is the one thing about you that would surprise people the most?
Cornet: Probably that my dad was born in Africa. People really don’t believe me when I say that. His father worked in the mines so he travelled a lot. – His dad is French, from France and his mom is Belgian, and my mom’s Greek, so I have a bit of everything. – So his dad was travelling a lot and he spent about ten years in Africa in Senegal and my dad was born there and lived there until the age of 5, then they moved to Canada.
PT: Do you have a hockey nickname?
Cornet: No. People call me Phil, Corn, Corny. Basically my name.
PT: You spent 4 seasons in the Juniors with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Océanic (2006 through 2009) and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (2009-2010) and then moved to the OKC Barons (2010-11 season) after being signed by Edmonton. For those not familiar with Juniors – what are the major differences between QMJHL and the OKC Barons, in terms of team and play?
Cornet: Everyone is older here. In Juniors it is from age 16 to 20 and there is a maximum of three 20 year olds per team. Here, the minimum age to play is 20 years old. The AHL is the transition league to the NHL. Same thing with the Juniors – it is the transition league from minor hockey to this level. I wouldn’t say it is easier, because when you are younger it is hard for you. It is a good way to prepare yourself for pros.
Here everything is way faster — the guys are faster, the shots are harder, the execution is better, the pass is on the tape all the time. The guys on your line are always in the right spot at the right time so they can make a difference. They are stronger, they hit stronger, they make all the little details. Most of the players here were all top players of their own junior or college league.
PT: Are you enjoying it here?
Cornet: Yeah, it’s a good place to play.
PT: You were drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. (Fifth round, 133rd overall) – and then you signed a three-year entry-level contract with Edmonton in May 2010. Were you expecting to be drafted by the Oilers?
Cornet: No, not really. Actually, I had spoken with a lot of teams prior to the draft and I had not talked to the Oilers at all. Not once, so I was not expecting the Oilers to draft me, but you never know who is going to draft you. Obviously I was happy and I was surprised. When the Oilers were picking I was not ready to be picked but then my name was called. It was a good feeling.
PT: How do you describe yourself as a hockey player? You are a forward, Left Wing – but tell us more.
Cornet: I think I am mostly an offensive forward, I have good offensive skills and more and more I am trying to be better with my defensive aspect of my game. And I think between last year and this year I have improved a lot, just trying to be a complete player, to be as good defensively as offensively. My biggest strengths are my battles around the boards, one on one battles, puck control and just shooting, scoring goals and there are some aspects I need to be better, like everyone. One of those aspects is skating, I’ve been working on that forever, and I see improvement and it helps. It pays off this year but I just have to keep working on that.
PT: You spent all of last season with the Barons, playing 60 games – you had 7 goals and 16 assists. At this moment in the 2011-2012 season you are ranked very near the top of the AHL for scoring with 15 goals to date [on Dec. 27th, 2011; currently on Jan. 24, 2012 Cornet has 20 goals and 5 assists]. OKC fans are very impressed with you this season! What’s different this season from last season?
Cornet: I think just the fact that I am a bit faster than last year it helps. It helps to get to the loose pucks faster, it helps to grab rebounds, it helps just to get in front of the net. Most of my goals were probably ten feet from the net and that’s where I need to go and that’s where I am going to get goals and keep getting goals if I go there. If I always play far from the net I won’t get any. Most goals in hockey are scored in the slot.
PT & NL: What off-season tinkering & training did you do to prep for this season?
Cornet: I spent most of the summer in Montreal, about five hours from my home town, and I did a lot of off-ice work, working on my legs, getting stronger and leaner. I lost a couple of pounds this summer too. Every day I was on the ice for an hour and a half with a private coach working on my skating, that is mostly what I did. I also practiced my shot too, practiced a bit of skills but mostly skating. I focused a lot on skating this summer.
PT & NL: How is Coach Nelson using you differently than he did last season?
Cornet: Last year it was kind of a transition year for me. I had a lot to learn and I had to take my spot and be patient. I didn’t really have a lot of ice time so sometimes it was hard being in and out of the line-up and for some guys this season it is the same situation. It is not easy but you just have to keep your head up and that’s what I did. I just stayed positive and waited for my chance. This year when he decided to put me in the line-up at the beginning of the season I played pretty good. I was ready to play and I was ready to do well, and then on the power play I got more ice time and I was playing good. In hockey you have to deserve your ice-time.
PT & NL: Do you feel a little more steady in your sophomore season?
Cornet: Yeah, for sure! The way I feel this year can’t compare to last year. I feel a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable on the ice. I take more time to make plays. Overall, I just feel better when I step on the ice. I don’t feel stressed, I don’t feel afraid of making mistakes. I’m just having fun playing.
PT: Yes, and it shows!
Cornet: Yeah! It’s always like that when you have fun, the better you play. And that’s what’s happening this year.
PT & NL: Whom do you prefer to play alongside? Lately you have been on a line with Ryan Keller and Marc Arcobello.
Cornet: I really like to play with those two guys for sure. I have played with Gilbert Brule and Ryan O’Marra at the start of the year too, and that was really good also. I think every player brings something different to the game and this year we have so much depth that anyone could play with anyone. It’s easy to adjust and be good with any player you are matched with.
PT: It has also been fun for fans to watch Coach Nelson switch up lines.
Cornet: And it works! We keep winning. It is fun for us, it is fun to know that anyone can play anywhere. It’s fun. Like I said, whoever I am going to play with, we have a chance of playing well with all the depth we have.
PT & NL: There’s talk of your shooting percentages being off the charts – how does that happen on the ice for you?
Cornet: I think it is hard to explain. It’s not something I think about. It is not something necessarily I want to be good or bad – I never really looked at my shooting percentages before. It just means that every two or three shots basically I get a goal so maybe I should just keep shooting even more. [laughing]
PT: You were injured a while back – what happened?
Cornet: I was on the bench and there was a line change and I just stepped on the ice and a player on the other team just skated by me. I think he didn’t see me, I didn’t see him either. We collided and I caught his shoulder right on the side of my head. It wasn’t anything really serious but I had a bit of concussion symptoms – I had some headaches. I thought I would be back the weekend against Charlotte but when I practiced Friday with the team I still had headaches so we decided just to hold me back through Christmas break and then come back after. I will be playing tonight [December 27].
PT: Who has most influenced you in the game of hockey — anyone, player, parent, coach?
Cornet: All of my minor hockey, my dad for sure. I always want to please my dad. That’s every hockey player when they are young. But now I think it is my coaches. They help me in every aspect of the game – they decide the game plan, they decide the system and we have to follow it. So, yeah, they are the most important people for me right now.
PT: Do you have any favorite traditions, habits or superstitions – either before or during games?
Cornet: No, nothing at all.
PT: What is your best hockey memory so far?
Cornet: So far, I think there are probably two, maybe three. My first one is probably when I played in the Memorial Cup tournament in Juniors – that’s the tournament at the end of the year where the winner of each league in Canada play in one tournament to be number one in the whole country. I participated in one in the year 2008-2009. We were hosting it and that was the first team I played for. That was really exciting.
The second moment would be when I was drafted by the Oilers – that was really exciting for me.
And the third was my first pro goal with the Barons last year.
PT: Have you had any memorable encounters with an opponent, and if so, please tell us about it.
Cornet: Oh, Mathieu Tousignant from Texas! We played four years against each other in the Q. He always played for teams that were rivals, and we played like ten, twelve times per year. And still, here we are always talking to each other, always chirping each other. He likes to get under my skin and just get on my nerves and it has been going on the past six years. I’m kind of used to it. That’s a big part of his game.
PT: Do you have a favorite hockey souvenir and why?
Cornet: When I was younger, at the age of 12, we played in a big, huge tournament in Quebec City. It’s a tournament for players who are 12 and 13 years old, and we actually won it. It was the first time for a team from my region to win that tournament in over 35 years I think. So that was probably one of my best souvenirs when I was younger.
PT: Who is the toughest competitor in practice?
Cornet: I could name a lot of guys! I think everyone works very hard in practices. I would probably say Taylor Chorney. He is always hard to beat one on one, he doesn’t want to get beat. I’d probably say him, but I could say that about a lot of guys – we have a team that works hard all the time in practice and that’s probably why we are doing so well.
PT: Who is most likely to play jokes on his other teammates?
Cornet: Ryan O’Marra. No doubt about it!
PT: What is the best prank or joke so far?
Cornet: I don’t always know who it is, but some player likes to put shaving cream in the towels, so once you are done showering you dry yourself with towels full of shaving cream and you have to go back into the shower. That’s something you see quite often. It kind of pisses off the trainers too.
PT: What has been the most difficult thing about relocating to Oklahoma?
Cornet: There wasn’t anything really hard about it. Last year was my first year living by myself, in my own apartment, taking care of my own bills, taking care of my own food, everything. Always in Juniors I lived in a billet and they would take of everything – my laundry, everything for me. I would only have to play hockey and go to school, that’s about it. But I think the hardest part was just living by yourself. Not because it is Oklahoma, anywhere I would have played it would have been the same thing.
PT: Have any family members been able to join you here in Oklahoma, to watch you play?
Cornet: Yes. Not this year so far, but my dad came last year with my sister. They came down for a week. That was fun. My dad is planning to come back, probably in the playoffs this year.
PT: What do you like most about Oklahoma?
Cornet: The weather probably. [laughing] I am used to cold weather back home and a lot of snow. Here there is no snow. And probably just the people in general. They are really friendly down here. I’m not saying people aren’t friendly back home but it is just a different mentality. People always want to help you, always kind to everyone. It’s just fun being around people down here.
PT: Have you discovered anything about Oklahoma that has surprised you?
Cornet: The thing that surprised me the most, touched me the most, was when I visited the National Memorial [Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Memorial] – I visited it last year. I heard a bit about it back home when I was young but I did not really pay that much attention. But now, being here and knowing some of the issues, what happened here, it is very interesting and very sad to hear. It is very moving.
PT & NL: Now that you are in your second season in Oklahoma, does Oklahoma City feel a bit more comfortable, more like home?
Cornet: Yes, for sure. I’m more used to everything. Now when I go back home I know what I have to do. I feel more organized than last year. Not always last-minute. Everything is planned in advance. My groceries are done in advance. Last year everything would be, okay, today I need some food. Today I need to do this. But, now I am taking care of it earlier and there is less to think about.
PT: How do you and the team feel about playing hockey here in Oklahoma? Oklahoma is a very football focused region.
Cornet: I think it is interesting to us too – it is a motivation for us as well. It pushes us to play well because we want more fans, we want more noise – like every hockey player wants. And the only way we are going to do that is if we have a winning team. It’s normal. A lot of people don’t know a lot about hockey, but at the same time the fans who come see us are great. They are noisy, they are passionate. They love the team and that’s great because we love them too. I think the best thing we can do is work hard and win for them.
PT: I see you are on Twitter — @PCornet15. And I believe you are also on Facebook – do you mind if OKC Barons fans follow you on FB?
Cornet: No, I don’t mind and it is not private. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook so it might take some time to respond to friend requests. I think the easiest way would be twitter. I’m more often on twitter.
OKC Barons Interviews: