Schremp may be getting message

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Oilers prospect Rob Schremp is in California working out with some of Edmonton's veterans, a move that Kelly Buchberger believes is the first step in realizing the potential that made him a first round draft pick.

"That's where he should be," said Buchberger, who coached Schremp in Springfield last season. "On the ice he has great hockey skill. He has great vision, he can transport the puck, he can find the openings. He can do everything well. But he needs to get stronger, get better leg strength so his speed can keep up with the other players."

Schremp created a major buzz with his arrival in Edmonton after a 145-point season with the OHL's London Knights, but had a pair of lukewarm training camps and hasn't been given much of a look since, despite great AHL numbers last year (76 points in 78 games).

The knock has always been his speed, strength and conditioning, which is good enough to produce in the minors, but not the NHL.

He's been passed by the next wave of Oilers prospects - Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner - and needs to get management's attention before he falls farther behind.

"Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner - those players have strong cores and good legs and they can move,"said Buchberger. "Robbie has to get to that next level."

The fact that he's working out with the vets suggests he's finally getting the message. And training with key veterans who can help with motivation and show him where he needs to be can only help.

"Seeing guys like Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau, how hard they work and how good a shape they're in, how strong they are (will open his eyes)," said Buchberger. "Robbie is buying into that system right now and if he buys into it all summer he's got a great chance."

JONI RUMOURS

Defenceman Joni Pitkanen's name has been popping up in trade rumours and suggestions (mostly suggestions), but head coach Craig MacTavish says defencemen of his skill set are few and far between. So trading him one year after you get him doesn't make much sense.

"My sense of him is far from giving up on him," said MacTavish, who thinks Pitkanen could be ready to turn a significant corner this year. "I really feel like there's definitely untapped potential there, so I'd be very reluctant to see him go anywhere."

But MacTavish doesn't rule out a significant trade involving some other elements of the team.

"I think there's potential there that we could conceivably do a three-for-one type deal that would make sense for us where we bring in a (high-end forward)," he said. "In the past we've generally traded one-for-three. Now we have an opportunity to do the opposite. But these are all good players we're talking about, so it would have to be somebody exceptional coming in."

The Oilers have several bargaining chips, including Dwayne Roloson, Raffi Torres, a body or two on defence and some attractive prospects.

WAY AHEAD OF LAST YEAR

This summer is a 180-degree turnaround from last June, when the Oilers were scrambling for talent after a dreadful 12th place finish.

Now they have almost all of the key ingredients in place. They'll try to land another big name player but won't have to be out there begging.

"Hopefully we can do something that's going to help our team for next year, but I just want to start with what I finished with," MacTavish said of his talent pool. "I'm really looking forward to next year. That wasn't the case last year at this time. We had an incredible amount of work to do and an incredible amount of changes to make.

"Now, with a lot of those changes (made) and the development of some of the younger guys, it's incredibly exciting for us. We know there's a lot of work ahead, but I really see a strong, strong team here next year. With what we have now, we're very capable of having success right away."


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