SUN Hockey Pool

I'll be back: Schremp

Robbie Schremp drives away from Rexall Place after being cut by the Oilers yesterday. The...

Robbie Schremp drives away from Rexall Place after being cut by the Oilers yesterday. The 19-year-old will spend another year with the OHL's London Knights. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Robbie Schremp showed a lot of poise for a 19-year-old who just got his heart stomped on.

And Jani Rita had a very good grasp on reality for a 24-year-old who finally realized his lifelong dream.

Good, because Schremp has no reason to cry and Rita has no reason to laugh -- none of what happened to them in yesterday's final round of cuts means anything in the long term.

Despite being cut, Schremp has to know that if he keeps doing what he's doing he'll be a star on this team one day. Rita, despite making the Oilers as their 14th forward, has to know that he's a long, long way from calling himself a bonafide NHLer.

"I gave it my best shot this year and I just wasn't ready," admitted Schremp, who'll report back to the London Knights today.

"I'm disappointed, obviously. I just got cut, it's tough to take. But it's obviously for the best and I'm going to make the best of it.

"I almost made the team, the greatest league in the world, the best players in the world. If I almost made it this year, it's going to be a pretty good bet next year."

WASN'T THAT FAR OFF

While Schremp wasn't that far off, he was far enough that the Oilers had no choice but to send him back to Junior. His hands and eyes are NHL calibre, but his size, speed and conditioning aren't.

"I felt pretty good at the beginning of camp, and then you could tell when the teams started getting their full rosters in it was getting tougher and tougher," said Schremp, who had one point in six pre-season starts. "I kind of hurt myself the last couple of games, didn't produce very well, kind of struggled a bit in the speed category.

"But it was a great experience. Probably the best hockey I've played in a long time, or ever. Living the lifestyle for a month was pretty cool. Hanging out with all these guys, taking flights everywhere, it's a good experience."

If he comes back 10 pounds heavier and a stride faster, he'll be a lock. And now that he's seen first hand what it takes to make it up here, motivation shouldn't be a problem.

"You train all summer and you don't really know what it takes until you get here. Now I know what I have to do. I'll go back and work hard.

"That's the easiest thing to do, really, get stronger and bigger and faster. That's just training. You can't really teach skill. So I guess it's a positive; all I have to do is work out more."

That's not the case for Rita, who's already built like a linebacker and has speed to spare. Physical attributes have never been his issue, how he uses them has.

He's showing some spark this camp, and the last thing the Oilers want is to admit another first-round pick went belly-up, so he gets a roster spot. But his future is still far from secure.

'I WANT TO PLAY'

"I'm still here, but press box is not what I'm looking for," said the six-foot-one, 210-pounder.

"I want to play the game, that's how you get better. I want to be developing. I think I'm in a phase where my career is going up.

"In the start I'll have to be in the press box but I'll keep myself in good shape and when I get a chance I'll have to prove myself, that I can play here, that they can trust me out on the ice."

After unsuccessful auditions in '01, '02, and '03, he had a feeling this would be the year.

"I know exactly where I am, I don't have to read it in the papers," he said of his training camp chances. "I knew I was in good shape, I worked my ass off during the summer. I had a good season in Finland and I was confident that I could show that I belonged in the NHL."

Or at least in the 14th roster spot of an NHL team.

"It's still the beginning of the journey," he said. "There's a long way to go to be in the lineup every night. This is just the first step, but you have to take it or you can't take the second step."


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