The players selected by the Oilers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft can basically be broken into two groups: the first rounders (Gagner, Plante and Nash) and the long-shots (Linus Omark, Milan Kytnar, and William Quist). With late-round draft picks, it’s very difficult to get any kind of read on them when they’re drafted; generally there are either big holes in their games or they’ve had such limited exposure that very few people outside of the professional scouts have an accurate read on them, a problem exacerbated when they’re in European leagues. A year out, however, fans can begin to make some general assumptions, so let’s take a look at what these three late-round Europeans did.
Linus Omark, 97th overall
There were a couple of unique things about Omark when the Oilers selected him. First, he was an overage player (20 years old at the draft), and second, he’s 5’9”, 168lbs. Likely he impressed the majority of Oilers’ scouts at the 2007 World Juniors, where he put up some nice numbers (7GP 2G 3A 5PTS) for Sweden. Central Scouting had this to say about him prior to the draft:
A skilled forward with excellent speed… has quick feet and can beat defenders one-on-one… handles the puck well in traffic and passes the puck well forehand and backhand… sees the ice well and is effective on the power-play… battles hard along the boards…
Bill Meltzer of Hockeybuzz also had a nice scouting report:
Meanwhile, pint-sized Linus Omark (listed generously at 5’9” but seemingly closer to about 5’7”) put on a dazzling display of stickhandling and creativity at the WJC. There were several games where the right winger looked more dangerous than team captain Nicklas Bäckström and fearlessly skated into the high traffic areas. ??The drawback with Omark, obviously, is his size. Even in Elitserien, he sometimes gets manhandled but never gives up on the play. While his Elitserien stats seem pedestrian (eight goals, 17 points in 50 games), he accomplished these numbers in limited ice time. He had one goal in four playoff tilts, as LHF got swept in the first round of the Swedish playoffs.
Lastly, here’s what Hockey’s Future had to say about him:
A flashy player with first-class technical skills and hands. Very creative player with good hockey sense and natural scoring ability. Defence is okay, although it can be fine-tuned. Good skater with great agility and moves. Additional strength and muscles would not hurt.
There’s also a brief video and scouting report up at Scouting Sweden.
Statistically, in 2006–07, Omark posted eight goals and 17 points in 50 games in the Elitserien. This year, he scored 11 times and had 32 points in 55 games. The important thing to remember with the stats for both years is that Omark’s icetime has been limited in both seasons (albeit less so in 2007–08); thus his numbers are likely under-selling his offensive ability. Omark will spend one more season in Lulea, but plans to come to North America for 2009–10.
We get the impression of a player with a willing attitude, a guy who isn’t scared of traffic and plays a high-skill, high-intensity game. However, given that he’s being “manhandled” in the SEL, additional strength is necessary. There have been good examples of players overcoming limited size (ie Martin St Louis), but in these case those players must have tremendous lower body strength in order to win puck battles, and an extremely high level of competitiveness. It sounds to me like Omark is halfway there.
In any case, he’ll be a player worth keeping on eye on in 2008–09.
Milan Kytnar, 127th overall
Milan Kytnar was the captain of Slovakia’s under-18 team in 2007, as well as one of their best forwards, with seven points in six games. He dominated the weak Slovakian junior league, with 91 points in 53 games and a +78 rating. He also looked good in the senior league, with 11 points in 22 games.
Hockey’s Future described him as a “two-way, creative centre who can score goals.” For 2007–08, Kytnar came over to North America, and the results were not pretty. He played in a checking role for the Kelowna Rockets, and wound up with 22 points in 62 games. Checking role or not, an 18-year-old with NHL aspirations needs to do better than finish 11th in team scoring.
Still, it isn’t all bad. The Saskatoon Blades evidently felt that Kytnar had better potential than his statistics indicated, and on June 26th acquired Kytnar along with defenceman Colin Joe from Kelowna. Some interesting quotes from the Star Phoenix on the transaction:
(Blades coach-GM Lorne) Molleken said he plans to use Kytnar with wingers Derek Hulak and Colton Gillies, provided the latter is returned to junior by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
“He took a couple of weeks to adjust, as most Europeans would,” said (defenceman Colin) Joe, who joins Kytnar in the move to Saskatoon. “He kind of got bumped down in the lines and put into a checking role. But he’s got good skill and he loves the game.
“As the year wore on, he was a lot more effective and you’d see spurts of offensive flair.”
Kytnar has decent size (6’, 180lbs) and by the end of this season it should be obvious if he has much in the way of offensive ability to offer.
William Quist, 157th overall
The Oilers’ last pick of 2007 had an awful season in 2007–08, and the future doesn’t look any better. In March 2008, Guy Flaming posted a rather depressing update at HFBoards, the biggest part of which was this quote from Kevin Pendergrast:
“He got into a fight with his coach and left the team (Linköping). He then went back to his original junior team.” ??”[Sweden] had a national U19 camp that he was at and he really disappointed me from the guy I saw at our training camp; basically no effort to his game so I told him ‘If you think this is how you’re going to get to the NHL, you don’t have a chance and from the standpoint of your development you’ve gone backwards! If you have any thoughts of wanting to become a pro you’d better give some serious thoughts to coming to Canada to play next year’.” ??”He’s going to call me at the end of the year.”
Hockey’s Future had an updated report on him on July 7th:
The Oilers made it very clear that they wanted him to come to Canada and play in the CHL for the coming year but instead Quist has signed a contract with Nybro, a men’s league below the SEL. The Oilers are concerned that he’ll barely play if/when he isn’t a healthy scratch. He hasn’t accomplished much and has not taken advice from the organization so he’s definitely painted himself into a corner.
It sounds like a bleak future for a guy who is 6’4” and has high-end skating skills.