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Schremp turns Oiler heads

Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish is impressed by the play of Rob Schremp at the Oilers' training...

Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish is impressed by the play of Rob Schremp at the Oilers' training camp. "He fits one of the team's skill packages ... the power play," MacTavish says. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Wherever Rob Schremp has gone, he's made an impression.

There have been times when the impression might not have been as good as he would have liked. Most of the time though, Schremp leaves you very impressed.

It's no different at the Edmonton Oilers training camp. Reports say it's been all good.

Schremp is forcing the Oilers brass to take a long, hard look at keeping him in Edmonton when the season starts rather than sending him back to London Knights.

"It's starting to look like that's a good possibility," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.

Schremp making the Oilers was a longshot when camp opened. As talented offensively as Schremp is, he's still 19 with a year of junior eligibility left. There continued to be questions about his ability to play a complete hockey game. But in this day of skate, shoot and score, Schremp would be a nice fit for the Oilers.

"Hey, I got a little penalty-kill time the other night (against Calgary) and the game before that," Schremp said from Edmonton. "I did pretty well. I haven't penalty-killed in two years (since coming to London.) I've been playing 17-18 minutes a game."

But it's his ability on the power play that will win him a job. He's been on the Oilers' top power-play unit. Schremp has a goal and an assist and was selected the first star in a game in which he didn't record a point. If the NHL follows through on its determination to enforce existing rules, a strong power play will be essential for success.

"He fits one of the team's skill packages and that's the power play," said MacTavish.

"He's been very impressive," MacTavish said of Schremp. "He's as good a passer as I've seen in a while and the play doesn't die with him very often."

While some might not like the changes the NHL has wrought, they are good for Schremp. He has a pro-type shot and the confidence demanded of an NHL player.

"With the new rules, it seems like a time for me to step up and take a spot here and play in the NHL," he said.

It's a numbers' game. Do the Oilers want to make room on the roster for Schremp? Reports say that they are leaning toward starting the season with Schremp as a third or fourth-line winger and a power-play specialist.

"He'll also play a couple of shifts five-on-five a period. That's 10 or 15 minutes a game," said MacTavish. "Even if he plays some shifts five-on-five, he hasn't been a liability. He's obviously been well schooled in positional play by Mark and Dale (Hunter.)"

It sure sounds like it's Schremp's job to lose.

"You have to be careful," warned MacTavish. "We have three exhibition games left. We'll see rosters that are more heavily laden with NHL players. We'll see how he plays. There may be a game when he's exposed and it shows that he isn't quite ready yet."

Schremp has a soft spot for London but it's no surprise he doesn't want to see it again as a player.

Given the choice of an NHL career or another year in junior hockey, flying first-class or spending six-hours on a bus, making a few bucks or few hundred thousand, who would want to come back?

"I want to stay up here as long as I can. I want to learn from the veterans, pick up what I can," Schremp said.

"If I can play 10 games here, that's great. If I have to go back, that's fine too. I don't want to but it's not my choice. All I can do is play good hockey, stay out of trouble off the ice and that would be fine."

As for some of the negative stuff that has followed Schremp around and he's tried so hard to shed.

"I've heard about it but I haven't seen it," said MacTavish. "The slate is wiped clean. He's done nothing but work hard."

It wouldn't be the worst thing if Schremp stuck with the Oilers. It would show there is room for a smaller, highly skilled player in today's NHL as well as proving what we've known in London all along, that there's nothing wrong with Schremp as a person.


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