Rob Schremp would rather have been playing in Edmonton this year. Instead, he's a lighting things up in the Ontario Hockey League.
When it comes to Edmonton Oiler prospects, Schremp is as big as they come.
The 19-year-old London Knights star was the Oilers' second pick (25th overall) in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
He nearly cracked the roster this fall, but was sent back to junior hockey for another year of seasoning. He's making his final year of junior a memorable one.
The Syracuse, New York, native is averaging a goal a game with the Knights this season and he's running away with the scoring title.
Heading into play on the weekend, Schremp had 47 goals and 78 assists for 128 points in 47 games.
The Knights are comfortably atop the OHL's Western Conference and could repeat as Memorial Cup champions.
"It's been a really good year," said Schremp last week from London. "Things have been going really well for me and the team. I'm glad that I came back to London. It's helped me improve my game."
Heavy on talent, Schremp is projected to one day be a first-line centre in the NHL.
This fall at the Oilers training camp, the five-foot-11, 200-pound centre made quite an impression.
There were questions as to whether he should be sent back to junior this season. Having amassed 90 points and winning a Memorial Cup the previous year in London, there was not much left for him to accomplish.
But the Oilers figured Schremp would be better served by another year in the OHL.
"He's got to become a better skater and he's got to get stronger," said Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson. "If he gets stronger, he'll become a better skater. He knows that and he's working on that and it's not going to happen over night. It's going to be a gradual thing."
Being only 19, Schremp had to go back to junior if he didn't stick with the big club.
A BUDDING STAR
Knowing they have a budding star on their hands, the Oilers are willing to be patient.
Next year they have the luxury of sending Schremp down to the minors and calling him up whenever they see fit. That is unless he sticks with the team on a full-time basis.
"I know I have to work on playing better defence and getting better and smarter in my own zone," Schremp said.
"I think I'm doing that this season. I wanted to come back and work on the things that would make me a better player in the NHL. I wanted to come back to junior and have an awesome season and make my last year great."
Schremp has taken on more of a leadership role with the Knights this year.
"He's added to his grittiness and become a much more complete player and he's going to have to keep working on that," Howson said. "If he improves on his defensive responsibilities as well, then he's going to become a really good player. Really those are the only areas that are going to stop him from playing in the NHL."
Meanwhile, winning with the Knights can only be good for his development.
"He could be a first-line centre in the NHL if he wants to be - if he becomes a better skater and a bit more complete," Howson said. "That's going to take time, though. You don't become a first-line centre in the NHL in a year or two. It usually takes three or four years."