Omark a mystery for Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

Difference-maker or internet hype?

Impact player or undersized perimeter player?

It’s impossible to tell at this point, but the answers will be coming soon enough now that Linus Omark is signed to a contract and heading to Edmonton in the fall.

Omark barely made a ripple when the Oilers selected him late in the 2007 entry draft (97th overall), but the 23-year-old Swede has since become a You Tube sensation with his jaw-dropping highlight reel plays.

Of course, there’s more to hockey that being able to dangle. The Oilers, rife with small forwards who look better in a skills competition than they do in a game, are living proof of that.

A team that gave up on Rob Schremp and is still waiting for Sam Gagner to reach his potential, is taking a slow, cautious path with this one.

“He’s found a way to have success at the Swedish Elite League and in the Russian league he scored 20 this year, which is not an easy league to score in,” said GM Steve Tambellini. “He has some attributes there that are well above average. Whether he can bring that package and make this team, I don’t know. We’ll have to see what the roster looks like when we get to next September.”

Like all entry-level deals, Omark’s is a two-way contract.

“He’ll have to make the hockey club,” said Tambellini. “If not, he’ll be in Oklahoma City.”

With 36 points in 56 games for Moscow Dynamo, he put up OK numbers in the KHL, but at five-foot-11 and 188 pounds (he’s listed as small as five-foot-9, 168), it’s hard to imagine him winning many puck battles with Robyn Regehr. As many, many young prospects have found out the hard way, it’s hard to dipsy-doodle with somebody’s elbow in your face.

“I said that at the start of the year, you can go back to the 40s and 50s, I don’t care how far you want to go back, there’s been a lot of people with great skill who tried to play this game but couldn’t manage,” said head coach Pat Quinn, who has no idea what to expect from Omark when he gets here. “Most people get chances because of skill. The ones that make it have other things. They’ll have the intangible side, the heart, the grit, the guts. Some have some skill who just can’t figure out the game; they don’t know where to be at the right time, so their skill is negligible when it comes to playing the team game.”

The lowest scoring team in the NHL desperately needs players who can generate offence, so they’re hoping there’s more to this guy than hands.

“I love skill, I really do,” said Quinn. “I love skill that’s put to use properly. I’m not a big hot dog fan. I don’t like the pretty stuff that doesn’t come up in a result. These backhand flip passes, in practice you can even hear the players say, ‘Oh isn’t that pretty.’ It doesn’t win an awful lot of hockey games.

“But if he’s got the kind of skill to come in here and play an NHL game, then I like that.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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