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ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Three years after the Edmonton Oilers took a chance on him in the first round of the NHL draft, Rob Schremp is finally getting his NHL audition.

The 21-year-old centre, who failed to make it out of training camp in his first three cracks at the Oilers, has apparently shown the big club that he's worthy of a regular season shot.

His only other taste of the bigs came in Game 81 in Minnesota last year, when there was no season left to play even if he did impress.

That was little more than a bone you throw a prospect to keep him focused.

This is different. This time it could be for keeps. The Oilers need help. They're more receptive to a youth movement than at any time in the last 20 years, and Schremp, to hear he and the Oilers tell it, has done everything they've asked to prepare himself for this.

"He worked very hard, he competed hard down there, he did the things we know we can do well," said Oilers vice president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast.

"He quarterbacked the power play, he got a winner in overtime, and just his overall game at both ends has improved, which is what Mac (head coach Craig MacTavish) wanted him to work on.

"He's really starting to grasp the two ends of the ice part of hockey."

It was either that, or become a one-dimensional player in the A. So here he is, minus the baby fat and with his defensive zone shortcomings at a manageable level.

"They said my game is coming along," said Schremp, adding Springfield coach Kelly Buchberger really helped with his confidence.

"I've improved in the areas they wanted to see. I'm not as lost in my own zone as I used to be.

"I feel good, I lost some weight, lost some body fat like they'd asked, worked hard in the gym. I felt good down there, my speed was good."

And the Oilers, already stacked with youngsters, need help.

"He's been very conscious of what's going on," said Prendergast. "We have a lot of interchangeable parts with the kids. The good ones will get the opportunity to come up, the ones who are struggling will go back down and get their game back."

The door to the Oilers might never be as open as it is right now. Ask Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert and Sam Gagner.

"I'm sure when he was sent down this year it was heartbreaking because he's looking around (at the other guys)," said Prendergast. "But that's just the nature of the beast, those guys out preformed him in training camp. Mac said go down there and show me you're the best player."

Which is pretty much what he did.

"Last year I struggled in the A and you're starting to wonder if you can even play in the show. This year I went down and I felt I was one of the better players off the start. I felt very confident with the puck and making plays. Doing what's asked and what I expect out of myself as well.

"I need to prove that I can stay here. Who knows how long it'll be.

"I look at it as an opportunity for me to stick. This time there's a full season ahead of the team and I want to be here."


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