Training camp surprises are difficult to predict – “surprise” by definition requiring something unexpected.
But they tend to have some things in common, and Martin Gernat is a guy with some of the ingredients.
The Journal’s Jim Matheson wrote a great piece yesterday on Taylor Fedun – there is some other stuff in there, including the news that Louie DeBrusk is out as the colour guy on Oilers television broadcasts – and one of the things he hits on is Gernat’s off-season progress:
OKCity farmhand Martin Gernat, is up to 207 pounds after a summer in the gym. Gernat played 64 games with the Barons in his rookie pro season, mostly with Fedun as a partner. “This the time now to show I’m prepared to fight for a spot (NHL),” said Gernat, a former Oil King.
One Big Thing
Training camp surprises can take a lot of forms, but one of the most common is a player who has a lot of really good attributes but also has one big wart. Gernat fits the bill.
“Gernat has to get stronger,” Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson said in late February. “We saw Marincin go through this, and he needs to get stronger, but Marty’s stronger than he looks right now. You could see he was losing some battles the first year and this year he’s handled the corners really well.
“Gernat has to learn intensity consistently. He’s able to make plays; everybody knows that. He has to learn intensity consistently and playing strong in the corners and in front of the net. That’s all it comes down to for him.”
It’s a little simplistic to say that strength is the only thing Gernat needed to work on – he has some chaos to his game – but that was clearly subordinate to his need for more strength in the defensive zone. Listed on the Oilers’ official site at 6’3” and 197 pounds, a jump to 207 shows that Gernat has taken that need to heart.
An intelligent defender with great hockey sense, significant puck skills, and decent speed for his size, Gernat brings a lot to the blue line. If he can add “capable of winning more battles than he loses” to the list, he’s suddenly extremely attractive as an NHL prospect.
The Score’s Justin Bourne wrote a piece a week ago that I’m probably going to be linking to over and over again. Here’s an excerpt:
Certain people perform better at different builds… some player’s aren’t meant to stack 15 pounds of muscle on their slighter frames at age 20. They can be more elusive at a more natural size for them. Not all body types are the same, not everyone is out there to do the same things. In the end, take it all with a grain of salt.
It’s really important to give these reports the skepticism they deserve. For example, take this excerpt from a Matheson piece dated September 9, 2009:
Word is that winger Robert Nilsson has put on 15 pounds of muscle with some strenuous summer training.
Nilsson would be bought out the following summer following a disappointing season. Now it’s worth remembering that Nilsson was 5’11” and at a pretty good weight already, while Gernat is at least 6’3” and almost painfully thin. Also worth noting: one was a speedy forward, the other a defenceman. But it is a good reminder that these ‘best shape of his life’ stories may or may not translate to the ice.
What To Expect
On Tuesday I wrote that the reasonable expectation for Gernat was modest progress; in other words, a full-season in top-four minutes at the AHL level and perhaps a late-season NHL recall. I still think that’s the most probable outcome, particularly since the Oilers have pretty decent depth on the blue line.
But then I expected that Martin Marincin would play at least one more season in the AHL before seriously challenging for NHL work. Instead he was recalled at midseason and played so well that he earned the spot. It would be a surprise if Gernat could do the same, but it isn’t entirely out of the question.
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