Oilers prospect Omark making his mark

DereK VAN DIEST, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 PM ET

EDMONTON - Linus Omark is out to prove he’s more than just an overnight YouTube sensation.

The Edmonton Oilers prospect has come to town intent on making the team.

“That’s why I’m here. I think I’m ready,” Omark said. “If I didn’t think I could make the team, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have come over.”

So far, through the first two days of training camp, Omark has given an early indication that he’ll be a tough player to cut.

He appears to have all the skills needed to play at this level, with a proper attitude to boot.

“He certainly looks confident,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “We hope we are describing the drills in the way that he can understand them. What I like, though, even if he doesn’t quite get it, he keeps playing anyway, which is OK.”

A native of Overtornea, Sweden, Omark, 23, was selected by the Oilers in the fourth round — 97 overall — of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

He spent four years in the Swedish Elite League before heading over to Russia to play for Moscow Dynamo last season. The five-foot-nine, 168-lb winger had 20 goals and 16 assists in 56 games for the Russian side.

“I thought I had a great year last year, but I don’t really want to talk about the past, I’m more interested in talking about the future,” Omark said. “Coming here, I know there are some things I have to get used to. The ice is smaller, which is a little bit different, but I think I can handle it.”

Judging by his demeanour, there doesn’t appear much that Omark can’t handle.

He’s come to Edmonton for a purpose and is not shy about letting those around him know what it is.

“He has the confidence that you’d like to see as a player and certainly as we go through this camp, he’ll keep getting better and better,” Renney said. “He certainly has quickness. He’s a darting player and those are very tough players to have success against defensively.”

Omark has great hands as well, which he displayed during a shootout with the Swedish national team in 2009, flipping the puck over a fallen Swiss goaltender in an exhibition contest.

The video quickly made its way throughout the hockey world, showcasing his talent and making him a recognizable name.

“I was a little bit surprised how popular it got, but then again, it was a nice goal,” smiled Omark. “But it was just one goal. I think I have something more to show.”

With the Oilers running drills through the first two days of training camp, Omark has been unable to demonstrate his ability in game situations as yet.

However, he’s expected to get a long look during training camp and through the exhibition season.

“There are some great players here, but I’m focused on myself,” he said. “I’m an offensive player and so I want to put up some points this year.

“So far things are going well, but I think when I get my gloves (find his hands), everything is going to be OK. I’m just going to go on the ice and do my best. It’s good being out there on the ice with the young players. I hope I’m able to make the team.”

Ironically, however, as is the case with most rookies, it will probably be the defensive side of the game that determines whether Omark is ready to play at the NHL level.

“We have to make sure he understands what we’re looking for from a defensive end and give him a chance to play it,” Renney said. “I think that the smaller rink and how he handles himself in the offensive zone, being able to protect the puck and access the net and be a part of the physical offensive demands, will determine whether he’s ready.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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