SUN Hockey Pool

Omark makes a huge mark

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

They watched him put up a point per game in the Swedish Elite League and they, like a million or so other hockey fans, watched him become a YouTube sensation with his mind-blowing shootout and breakaway moves.

And the Edmonton Oilers knew they had a pretty special talent on their hands.

And they didn't leave the World Hockey Championships - where draft pick Linus Omark auditioned his game against an ever higher class of opponent last week - feeling any differently.

"We knew what he was all about before (heading to Switzerland)," said Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast. "He has a lot of skill. He certainly has offensive tools and he thinks the game really well and he's got good hands. The thing we didn't expect is how gritty he is, how tough he plays against bigger players. He goes to all the gritty areas."

Omark finished tied for sixth in scoring at the Worlds with 10 points in nine games, putting him up there with the likes of Jason Spezza and Steve Stamkos.

While shootout highlights are fun to watch, Prendergast says it's the rest of Omark's game that really turns heads.

"Shootout goals are shootout goals," said Prendergast. "The kid has imagination, you have to give him that. I guess it goes to show you that he's got guts to try those things one on one. He's not afraid of anything. He's a good enough skater, he separates himself from people and he makes plays. He's highly skilled and he plays in all the gritty areas. If he has a negative it's his size."

At five-foot-nine and 168 pounds, the 18-year-old left winger needs physical maturing, which is why the Oilers aren't too torn up that he signed a two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. The contract has an out after one season, at which point they'll re-evaluate his progress.

"I don't think he's all that far away because he does play hard and he's smart and he skates well enough to be an NHLer," said Prendergast, noting his year in the KHL will be good for his development.

"He wants to play in the NHL and we want him in the NHL, but it's one of those things where we're going to have to wait a year before we get him," he added. "We already told his agent we'll talk at the end of next season."


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