Is Omark Worth Keeping?

According to NHL.com, Linus Omark stands 5’10” tall and weighs 174 pounds. Through the first 35 games of his NHL career, he has scored a grand total of three goals and along the way has also chalked up a minus-11 rating. Those aren’t marks of a player bound for a long and happy career as a top-six forward at the NHL level.

However, despite those superficially disappointing numbers, I think the Oilers have themselves a player in Linus Omark.

There are a few different things about Omark that make me think he could have a successful career as a scorer at the NHL level.

Even-strength Scoring. Looking at the even-strength scoring (adjusted for ice-time) leaders on this Edmonton Oilers team, we get the following:

  • Ales Hemsky: 2.88 PTS/60
  • Linus Omark: 2.17 PTS/60
  • Jordan Eberle: 2.16 PTS/60
  • Sam Gagner: 1.96 PTS/60
  • Taylor Hall: 1.78 PTS/60
  • Shawn Horcoff: 1.60 PTS/60

Omark’s 2.17 PTS/60 is a very strong scoring number, for any team. Looking at the top Western teams, it would be the fourth-best number in either Detroit or Vancouver; the second-best number in San Jose. There’s no problem with his offensive production five-on-five.

Shooting Percentage. There is a lot of evidence that suggests Omark is a high-percentage shooter. This season in the AHL, he was putting pucks past goaltenders at a remarkable 20.0% clip. In 2009-10, he had another very good shooting percentage year, at 19.0%. I don’t have shooting percentage data for Omark’s 2008-09 season in Sweden, but his 23 goals in 53 games tied him for fifth in the Elitserien. In short: in three of the world’s four best hockey leagues, Linus Omark is a sniper.

So far this season, Omark has just three goals on 53 shots (corrected – thanks Sum). Among Oilers forwards with at least one goal this season, that 5.7% clip puts him ahead of just Colin Fraser (4.7%). I would argue that this state of affairs is highly unlikely to last, and that we’ll see Omark score with far greater frequency going forward. I simply cannot picture a player with Omark’s track record continuing to score at a clip that would make most fourth-liners blush.

Advanced statistics. I know that many people put very little stock in things like Corsi numbers, but Omark is doing very, very well in terms of the shot metrics. The opposition averages just 24.9 shots for every sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time that Omark plays – that’s a better number than that posted by any full-season Oiler. No Oilers player is on the ice for more shots for than against at even-strength, but Omark comes closest: 24.8 shots for per 60, 24.9 shots against.

Why then does he have an ugly plus/minus number? On-ice save percentage. When Omark is on the ice at even-strength, his goaltenders have a save percentage of just 0.864. That’s a really, really, bad number, and unlikely to be caused by Omark: after all, he’s just one of 11 players (five opposition skaters, five Oilers skaters, one goaltender) to have an influence on that number. History shows us that these things rarely repeat from year to year; for instance last year’s goat was Shawn Horcoff (0.891 on-ice save percentage) and this year he has the best number of any of Edmonton’s top-nine forwards (0.936). If we assumed Horcoff was responsible for his on-ice save percentage number, than we would be arguing that he’s nearly twice as good at preventing goals this year as he was last year (10.9 vs. 6.4 goals against per 100 shots against), something that’s almost certainly not true. Bottom line: Omark’s plus/minus is at least partially illusory, and we shouldn’t put too much stock in it.

Naturally, it isn’t all roses when we talk about Omark’s performance. The player has a bit of a mouth on him, and we’ve seen how that can cost players in Edmonton. No matter how well he plays, he’s still itty-bitty by NHL standards. His power play numbers so far have not been particularly good, although I’d argue that his performance on the unit has not been all that bad (and he is spending a lot of time on the point, which can make a forward’s power play numbers look worse than they are).

Still, despite all that, Omark’s shown enough to get a longer stint. The Oilers have a long, slow rebuilding process ahead of them, and given that they almost certainly aren’t looking for a playoff spot next season, there’s no reason for them not to be patient with their diminutive winger. It could very well pay off in the long run.

  • @ ubermiguel:

    I can’t say with certainty that shot quality is perfectly evenly distributed between skaters, but my impression from the data is that there is a very minimal difference. I actually need to sit down and go through the data to be 100% certain of that.

    Also, I can’t say with confidence that Omark’s getting more than his fair share of goals against on low quality shots; that’s a possible explanation but not one I have evidence for at this point.

    However, if the first point is accurate, the second seems logical. If we compare it to the roll of a die, where each shot has a 1-in-6 chance of going in (which for the high percentage areas is pretty close), we might get the following pattern for the different lines:

    Line 1: 4,5,2
    Line 2: 1,3,3
    Line 3: 6,2,6
    Line 4: 1,4,5

    Here, the sixes represent goals, so even though each line allowed three shots with an equal chance of going in, Line 3 finishes minus-2 while the other lines finish even.

    Over the long haul, it all evens out, but sometimes even a full NHL season isn’t long enough for that to happen.

  • Sorensenator

    Wow trolls everywhere, we might have to call Freddie Wong!

    Indeed the PTS/60 stat will be affected with increased icetime, however Omark is averaging 14:24 minutes of icetime per game, about 4 minutes less then Hemsky.

    Like Hemsky, Omark makes things happen in the offensive zone with stellar vision and passing.

    Over the remainder of the season I think we can all agree that Omark will see more icetime as well as more opportunities on the PP.

    Only time will tell with Omark, although I firmly believe his value will be maximized with top 6 minutes.

    Just a thought.. How many NHL players could take a step down to AHL and score five goals in a game? Obviously a hypothetical question, it shows just how much talent/skill Omark has.

  • Dan the Man

    Other notables to record 5 goals in 1 AHL game:

    Jiri Tlusty

    Bill McDougall

    Jarko Immonen

    I was thrilled with Omark’s 5 goal game and I’ve been impressed with him for the most part so far but AHL success does not necessarily equal NHL success, just ask Alex Giroux.

  • 24% body fat

    Skill vs. Talent

    Skill is an individual trait that you are born with and can partially develop with practice. Talent is how good you are at your discipline with use of all your skills.

    Crosby (dont want to start the best player debate) is the most talented player in the league. However is he the most skilled player at every aspect of the game? No

    But he is definitely more talented.

    And for all of omarks SKILL and flash, until he has accomplished what Ryan Smyth has in the NHL, I will always say ryan smyth is a more talented hockey player and omark is a higher skilled player.

    UPDATE: Thomas Jurko, one of the most skilled players in the draft, probably top 5. Where is he ranked 22 – 32. Why because skill does not always make you a good player.

    • I’ve never said that being the most skilled makes you the best. There is a reason why Gretzky has all of the records despite having average speed and a so-so shot and Kent Nilsson was called the magic man.

      I just didn’t understand your distinction between skill and talent. Now that you’ve defined it I’ll understand your comments better but I still think they are interchangable terms.

      Just because you are “skilled” or “talented” doesn’t mean you are a good hockey player. It helps obviously and skilled players have a higher upside. Whether they ever reach it or not is dependent on a million variables.

      • 24% body fat

        I see what you are saying. I am associating talented with being good, and skill being the pieces in which make you talented. you need moere than one skill to be talented.

        i am going to google Talent vs skill and see

  • B.D.G.

    I know this is off topic ( sorry Omark ) but i definitely would love to see the oilers organization use steve macintyre in a more game to game consistency level. I know he only has a tiny use factor, but i do believe he’s responsible enough to have out there for five minutes a night and be effect on most occasions. This guy is full of character and is a need going forward. Guy plays with a broken orbital bone and lays a thundering hit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UNDsfD37EQ&feature=related

    I know he fill’s a four line roster spot, but boy he’s a beauty like grapes would say.

    • 24% body fat

      crazy, Gagner will be the oilers leading scorer at the end of the year. He is pretty durable, considering the hit last game. He is younger and bigger than omark and still has a year or two left of physcial maturity. He has produced way more at a younger age than omark has and for more years of experience. Not to mention draft pedigree. So unless you want to save money a hole whopping 1.8 or so that would be a dumb decesion. I like Omark and am willing to give this player a few more years but just because he can come up with some highlight reel shoot out goals everyone thinks he is the savoir of this team.

  • 24% body fat

    Ok (according to google and its 99.99999% accuracy) i have it backwards. You are born with talent and skill is something you develop.

    However i do believe than that the media use them terms incorrectly.

    Fabian Brunstrom was appaently a highly skilled player, so why is he not a top talent in the league. I guess Tomas Holmstrom and Ryan Smyth are higly skilled players and omark and schremp are highly talented players.

    • Death Metal Nightmare

      yo bru, some skills are more developed for different matrices. thinking that Brunnstrom’s skills should work well in the NHL is fools perspective.

      also the notion of “being born with” talent is one of the most retarded things ever and anyone in the sciences who isnt holding their archaic opinions on predetermined endowments for grant money would laugh in its face. and many have.

      thinking some dude who hustles a lot doesnt qualify as “SKILL” is sorely mistaken. you embody a competitive hustle through (remember this word:) development, etc.

  • forestscooter

    What happened to keeping good players on your team until they get passed in the depth chart ? Omark has played well enough since being called up to be at least a 3rd line winger with some PP. Top6 maybe not, not right now. But if omark isn’t here who takes his spot ? JFJ, reddox ? Omark may be a top6, he may only be a playmaker on a third line.. but until one of our prospects (or to a less chance, a FA signing) replaces him (not necessarily his ‘skill set’, he can get replaced by anybody.. powerforward, sniper etc..) then keep him here and see what he brings.

    If we speculate that some players ‘don’t fit’ then trade them.. we’ll be #30 for a couple years (more years).

  • forestscooter

    Does A.Giroux deserve a spot.. no probably not. I’m sure he is probably upset at signing with a bad team in the Oilers and not getting much of a chance. But little did he know that the Oilers strength is depth in the forward position (maybe somebody should have told him). For a rebuilding team the Oil may be better off cycling rookies into their fourth line than having Giroux there getting a few more points. Barring the trade of 1-2 players at the draft to ‘move up a position’, there’s no room for him.

    Does he play defense ? he may have a shot .. lol

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    This kid is not Schremp.

    If the Oilers stupidly sell low on Omark, they’re going to regret it.

    Linus is going to figure out how to get to open spaces with the puck in the bigger, tougher NHL just like he did in Sweden and Russia.

    I’m so sick of super-talented players ripped on by this fan base because they don’t fit the profile of the big checking player who “hustles”.

    I’ll take a team of Hemskys and Omarks over a team of Pisanis and Dvorkas anyday…