Which Oilers Prospect Most Resembles Martin St. Louis?

Martin St. Louis is one of the true feel-good stories in recent NHL history. The pint-sized forward overcame adversity – in the form of near-total disinterest from NHL clubs – before going on to be both the league MVP and leading scorer prior to the NHL lockout.

St. Louis went the U.S college route, and despite being a major impact player during his time at the University of Vermont, he was passed over by every NHL team at the entry draft. In 1997-98, he turned professional, earning a training camp tryout with Ottawa. The Senators didn’t like him and let him go, so St. Louis signed with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL.

After putting up 50 points in 56 games in the old IHL, the Calgary Flames came calling, signing St. Louis in February of 1998. Over 2-1/2 seasons in the Flames organization, St. Louis put up the following totals in the AHL and NHL:

  • AHL: 95GP – 58G – 56A – 114PTS
  • NHL: 69GP – 4G – 16A – 20PTS

For many organizations, a big-time AHL scorer putting up just four goals in 69 NHL games would be proof positive that said scorer would never really put up numbers in the big leagues. Calgary certainly felt that way; they let St. Louis go, Tampa Bay signed him, and as they say the rest is history. We know now that Calgary should have looked at St. Louis’ shooting percentage (4.6% at the NHL level, brilliant in college and the minors) and given him another opportunity, but they didn’t. St. Louis, incidentally, would score four goals against Calgary in the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, including the overtime winner in Game Six that prevented Calgary from winning the series at home.

Comparing Linus Omark to Martin St. Louis’ later career is a big stretch. No such stretch is required to compare Omark’s current career with St. Louis’ at the same age. St. Louis was 25 years old when he left the Flames’ organization; Omark will turn 25 next month. Here are his numbers in the NHL and AHL:

  • AHL: 35GP – 15G – 23A – 38PTS
  • NHL: 56GP – 5G – 22A – 27PTS

Like St. Louis, Omark was not a top draft prospect – he was taken late as an overager by the Oilers. Like St. Louis, Omark has a great offensive track record, in Europe as opposed to the U.S college system. Like St. Louis, Omark’s NHL numbers suffer from a poor shooting percentage (6.0%) despite a track record of being a quality shooter everywhere else he’s played.

Despite this connection that I’m drawing, I’m not saying Omark is or will ever be Martin St. Louis. Martin St. Louis at 25 was a much different player than Martin St. Louis at 28, and there’s no question his game improved during that span. Additionally, St. Louis was undeniably an outlier – there aren’t many legitimate offensive talents who haven’t established themselves in the big leagues by the age of 25, and most guys who are top minor-league scorers at that age stay top minor-league scorers for most of their career.

With that said, I think a decision to part with Omark – either at the trade deadline, something that seems unlikely given his injury, or this summer when his entry-level contract expires – would be a mistake at this juncture. There are literally years of evidence suggesting that he could be a big-time scorer. His assist totals project to a reasonable level over a full season (32) and there’s good reason to believe his goal-scoring is not nearly as bad as it has looked at the NHL level.

Given where the Oilers are, patience with Omark is particularly advisable. This isn’t a team on the verge of the playoffs, a team likely to contend seriously next season. This team has been destroyed and is only now in the process of trying to rise from the league basement. If Omark can be a scorer going forward, they should find out as soon as possible.

  • I think patience is a trait which, as an organization, the Oilers haven’t displayed much in the past. Interesting to think how differently their careers might have progressed if Gagner and Cogliano had spent more time in the AHL. Maybe a change, maybe not. But it certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

    I think it’s great that Omark, MPS, Hartikanen, etc are being seasoned in the AHL prior to throwing them in over their heads. It takes a special player to make the jump that Hall and Nugent-Hopkins made.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Since Omark’s been out, none of the other prospects have grabbed the opportunity and forced themselves on the lineup (MPS, Harski, O’Marra). Hopefully the result will be that they aren’t in such a rush to dump Omark and will give him a legitimate chance and see exactly what is there. If we assume Hemsky is gone, there should be playing time available to him.

  • Every AHL team needs a 1st line RW. Sign him up.

    His value is so low that I doubt there are teams out there willing to part with anything to get him. What good is an enigmatic forward if nobody wants to solve the enigma?

    I say the Oilers should offer him up another contract and let him keep trying.

    JW, I think the best comparison to Omark is Robert Nilsson. But who knows, maybe one day Omark will get it together.

    • stevezie

      I agree that this team would be beyond crazy to plan Omark turning into an NHL scorer, but I think we’d be equally crazy to act certain that he won’t. I know he’s your goat, and you’ve got a decent case, but I think Willis nails it when he says that Omark is a guy you want to be sure about. We’ve sure got the time.

  • @ Archaeologuy:

    You could very well be right. If all it took to be Martin St. Louis was being a great minor-league scorer at the age of 25, there would be a lot of Martin St. Louis-type players out there.

    But then again, Omark’s one of the few boom or bust guys with at least the potential to be a major asset down the road, and I think that means he deserves some patience from a rebuilding team.

  • Dan the Man

    If it wasn’t for that broken ankle he suffered on Nov 16 I suspect we would have seen Omark in Edmonton a fair bit this season and who knows what would have happened then? As it is I believe he is set to resume skating soon and it will probably be another couple of weeks before he rounds into form. This all coincides with the Oilers finally getting healthy so he may not get another shot this year.

    Of course with the Oilers injury luck it’s only a matter of time before someone else is hurt and by then Omark will probably re-injure his ankle anyways.

    So what’s my point? I guess I don’t really have one but maybe he finds chemistry with Pajaarvi in OKC and they end up winning a Calder Cup.

  • RexLibris

    My guess is that the Oilers qualify Omark to retain his rights and then spend the majority of the summer (will this be the Summer of Linus?) negotiating the details. If I were to put money on what Omark (and his agent) would want it would probably be a one or two year deal with a NMC set up to negate the probability of being sent to the AHL again next season and probably some clause about the NMC being void between a certain period around January and February in order to allow the Oilers to trade him if they deem it necessary.

    Omark wants to play in the NHL and, it’s my guess here, that he feels he is ready to compete against top-level talent. He may or may not be right, but one thing is certain, his agent probably won’t tell him otherwise. And I’d be willing to bet that it is Omark’s desire to either cement his position in the Oilers lineup or get to free agency as soon as possible.

    Personally, as much as I hope for the Oilers to be patient with him, I think it would also behoove Omark to be patient with the organization and his own development as a player.

    Time will tell, but I’d rather not have a St. Louis experience in common with the Flames.

  • Dan the Man

    anybody hear the terry jones comments on team 1260 yesturday – Since Omark has been hurt he has discoverd the gym and discovered that he likes it. He has also been working on his shot, taking 400-500 per day. He has said he is not interested in going back to europe, he wants to play in the NHL

    • stevezie

      I might have heard it wrong, but I thought they said 400-500 shots “before all the other guys showed up at the rink”. Between that and the gym time it would appear that Omark is putting in the sweat necessary for personal development. Hopefully he gets a chance to prove it with the Oilers before they lose him to someone else.

  • There are a couple of similarities between Omark and St. Louis. Both are crafty in different ways, hard on the puck in the offensive zone, and play with alot of try, and both can stickhandle in a wet paper bag. But the comparison is mostly made cause both are slighter in stature. I think its like making the same comparison between Hall and the Nuge cause their 6’1, or Eberle and Gagner cause of their similar size.

    Omark ceiling is probably 60 points if he got top 6 minutes. He doesn’t skate as efficiently as St. Louis. Omark makes amazing passes, as does St. Louis, but I don’t think for one second Omark sees the ice anywhere close to St. Louis. I would like to see what their Corsi numbers would reflect in regards to their play.

  • Love Martin St. Louis. What’s more impressive about his feat is that it came pre-lockout, before the crack down on clutching and grabbing so is was even more of a challenge for smaller guys.

    St. Louis is a playmaking winger, like Hemsky, only grittier. A playmaking winger needs a scoring centre. So the moons aligned for Martin in Tampa where he’s had Lecavalier and Stamkos to pull the trigger. Not to say Martin hasn’t been great on his own. Stamkos owes his 50 goal seasons to Martin. But having the right linemate goes a long way.

    The Oil need to have a very clear idea of what assets they have and how best to complement them. If the Oil were to draft Grigorenko, there’s you’re big centre there. Maybe Omark is the perfect complement to him.

    Everybody thought it would be Hall and RNH, but to me, it looks like the early chemistry is between RNH and Eberle. Might be because RNH is a left shot, so passing to the right is more natural. Little things like that matter in a game where you have milliseconds to make up your mind.

  • With Omark, I think the big question is whether or not there’s ever going to be a spot in the top-nine or even top-six for him. If he’s left to be a checker on the fourth line, then he’s probably gotta be considered a tradeable asset because I don’t see him flourishing as a fourth-liner.

    I like the Marty St. Louis comparisons, but be careful with it. I think a lot of teams have a similar prospect in their systems – small-ish, slow-ish forwards who scored well at other levels and either signed on as free agent castoffs from other teams or weren’t drafted at all. Corey Locke, for example, in the Ottawa system.

    When I look at Omark, I think an even more accurate comparison is Cliff Ronning. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong on that by the various statistics out there, but when I see Omark play, I see a small NHL forward who’s good along the wall, good at running powerplays and a shifty skater and stickhandler.

    Ronning, obviously, didn’t take nearly the bumpy road to get to the NHL as St. Louis or Omark but I do agree with the writer – Omark is worth keeping around to see if he turns into something special … or specialized.

  • What I like about Omark, is that he has a skillset not really replicated on the Oilers. That being, his ability to control the puck along the boards. I think it would be easy for all of us to say that he is a redundancy in the Oilers lineup (which he is physically), along the boards though he changes the Oilers North-South attack into an East-West. I think we would all agree that if Georges Laraque had hands he would be much more valuable, sure Omark’s a smurf and fights like Cooke (e.g. no fights) but the fact that the Oilers have lacked a cycle game the past few years can not be overlooked.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Uh… really? So we just hype up any random stats that St. Louis and Omark have in common, downplay the differences between them, and all of a sudden 15 posters think Omark is the next superstar in waiting? You are good Willis, you are good.

    St. Louis became a star in spite of his draft status and in spite of his size, not because of them, so these comparisons to Omark are irrelevant. St. Louis excels in the NHL because of his compete level, his quickness, and his hockey sense. Omark does not impress me in the first two and is passable in the third.

    • bumblebpete

      I’m sorry but you must be talking about a different Omark.He may not score alot of goals but the man creates tons of offensive chances. He also isn’t afraid to work the boards. His skill set and Terrier style aggressiveness is exactly what the Oilers need. If the Oilers lose him or Gagner they are making a big mistake.we need to see PVR,Omark and Lander on a line for at least enough time for them to gel. In my humble opinion!!

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        I agree completely. The Tre Kroner line had some chemistry going back in the pre, and in hindsight, any chemistry with those three is a gift from god. Omark – Lander – Magnum PS could be a fantastic second line, if the wingers would rediscover their scoring touch. It’s got some size, speed, sandpaper (other teams seem to hate Lander), and grit on the boards.

        Maybe Omark can teach Mags a thing or two about going to the tuffies, because if he ever gets it in his head that speed = momentum, he’s gonna flat-out kill someone. Mags can join him for his 500 pre-practice shots on the one condition that Mags has to skate the puck up and aggressively take it to the net before he can shoot.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Oh crap… and here I had managed to go a couple of solid, happy months not thinking about Omark… the problem with our team is we have some many of these potential question marks that it’s both hard to keep track of them and reach any comfortable decision regarding their future.

    When is he expected back with OKC anyway? Would he sign another contract to probably play in the AHL a lot or go back home? maybe he’ll take the option out of our hands…

    Hey JW… how about a pool update? thanks!