SUN Hockey Pool

Oiler drafts shining

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

When you're a team whose first-round picks normally provide more punch lines than punch, you can use every bit of validation you can get - and the Oilers are getting it big time from their class of 2004.

On Monday, goaltender Devan Dubnyk, their first pick, 14th overall in 2004, was invited to Canada's World Junior selection camp, and yesterday their second pick in the first round, London Knights centre Robbie Schremp (25th overall), made the USA's final roster.

Second rounder, Roman Tesliuk, meanwhile, played in the recent Russia-CHL challenge and is hoping to make his country's team.

All in all, it's a nice, global endorsement for a program that hasn't always made the most of its opening-round selections.

MOVES IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

"It's a feather in the cap," said assistant GM Scott Howson. "There's still a long way to go before these players can play (in the NHL), but it certainly shows they're moving in the right direction. I think it would have been hard to ignore Robbie with the year he's had and the way he's played."

Leading a 27-0-1 London Knights team that's one win away from tying the 26-year-old CHL record for consecutive games without a loss, Schremp has become the talk of the OHL and was the centrepiece of Team USA's press release announcing their squad.

"This is very big, very exciting," said Schremp, who has 24 goals and 22 assists in 28 games for the Knights. "I'm pretty pumped about this. Making the World Junior team was one of my goals this year - it's a very big honour for me."

Schremp's stock has shot through the roof since rumours of a bad attitude sent him tumbling down the draft order last summer. Now he's lighting it up on a red-hot team and playing for the defending champions at the World Juniors.

Cool.

"It's been incredible, a great run here in London," said the five-11, 200-pound New York native. "It's so much fun winning every night, and playing here for the Hunters (Dale is the head coach) is an awesome situation, it's like an NHL atmosphere."

Last time we saw Schremp he was saddled with a problem-child label at the draft after a junior career that included demanding and receiving a trade and getting benched in the playoffs. It was considered a bit of a gamble when Edmonton took him in the first round. Not so much now.

"People who didn't know me were saying stuff like that," said Schremp. "I think it's wrong to talk about people behind their back, especially when you haven't met the kid. It put a black cloud over my head, and maybe that was part of the reason I kind of slipped a little bit in the draft. It was tough sitting in the stands that day, but I understand what was going on.

"There's not much you can do, you move on. Maybe there were some doubts, but hopefully I can answer that with the way I'm playing and the way I matured. And, to be honest, I don't really care about those people who are negative. I try to surround myself with positive things and that's what I have here in London.

"I'm happy I got drafted and happy I got drafted in Edmonton. I'm going to work really hard this year so, hopefully, I can be in the NHL next year. Hopefully when I come into camp next year they're impressed."

Howson said the knocks on Schremp were typical of any 17- or 18-year-old kid, the kind of issues teenagers routinely outgrow.

"He's going through that right now, growing up a little bit and maturing," said Howson. "Sometimes we expect a lot from these kids mentally when they're only 18 years old. He still has a ways to go, but he's certainly going in the right direction. He's on a great team, surrounded by some good people in the Hunters."

RESPONSIBLE TEAMMATE

And despite being the third leading scorer in the OHL, he's trying to reinvent himself defensively.

"He's a responsible teammate," said Howson. "He's not cheating offensively. He's trying to play physical when he has to play physically. He's really a good teammate and I think that's why he's been selected to the team."

The London experience, coupled with playing for the defending World Junior champions, can only make him a better, stronger player and person.

"Any time you learn how to win is always a bonus," said Howson. "This weekend is going to be great for them because London is under the gun, they're one game away from matching the record. These experiences are all beneficial, especially when you succeed."


Videos

Photos