May 12 2009 01:29PM
Linus Omark’s performance at the 2009 IIHL World Championships turned some heads – including among the Oilers brass. Kevin Prendergast was asked about him in today’s edition of the Edmonton Sun.
"We knew what he was all about before (heading to Switzerland)," said Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast. "He has a lot of skill. He certainly has offensive tools and he thinks the game really well and he's got good hands. The thing we didn't expect is how gritty he is, how tough he plays against bigger players. He goes to all the gritty areas."
I really hope that Prendergast is exaggerating when he says that they didn’t expect Omark to be so gritty. The Elitserien, where Omark’s spent the last four seasons, isn’t exactly for shrinking violets, whatever its reputation. It’s got a ton of ex-HNL defensemen, from 6’5” Ivan Majesky to Joe Dipenta, a gritty player who was a regular on the Anaheim Ducks team that won the 2007 Stanley Cup, to Pavel Skrbek, an ex-Predators prospect whose greatest asset is his hitting game. Every team seems to have at least one enforcer, many of them ex-NHL’ers including Kris Beech (146PIM in the AHL in 2004-05) and Kristian Kudroc (topped 100 PIMs three times in North America and managed 227 in just 48 games in his first year back in Europe).
In other words, there’s been plenty of opportunity for Oilers’ scouts to watch Omark play against big opponents and opponents with a mean streak, so hopefully the team already had a good idea of his capabilities in that area. More from Prendergast:
“He's not afraid of anything. He's a good enough skater, he separates himself from people and he makes plays. He's highly skilled and he plays in all the gritty areas. If he has a negative it's his size."
The other thing that I’d add to that is that Omark looks like he cheats for offense. I didn’t watch every game, and I’ll also admit that I’m highly against forming an opinion on a player over such a limited span, but it looked to me like Omark was the first guy out of his own zone pretty much every time. He didn’t play a lot of powerplay minutes as far as I saw, but he’s dynamic 5-on-5, playing a tremendous cycling game and distributing the puck quickly and with ease. It’s good to hear Prendergast speak so positively about Omark; it’s a significant change from his comments prior to the tournament. I really hope though that the Oilers are forming their opinion of Omark based on his play during the season, rather than at one tournament.
Finally, a couple of fun quotes from Omark on his performance at the World Championships. These are translated via Google, so there may be some slight error but the gist is there. First on his point production:
“More than a point per game. I am happy with but it could have been more.”
And more interestingly, a quote on what Omark thought of playing against NHL players and established stars like Jaromir Jagr:
“The stars were perhaps not as good as I expected.”