EDMONTON - NASHVILLE — Linus Omark is what you call dangerous at both ends of the ice.
When he’s out there, there’s a pretty good chance that a goalie will be fishing a puck out his net by the end of the shift.
Now, whether it’s Edmonton’s net or the other team’s is still anybody’s guess as the 23-year-old rookie with the unique ability to make both coaches hold their breath when he’s out there takes the first baby steps of his NHL career.
He can tee up a goal for one of his linemates with a seeing-eye pass that few other players would even: a) see; b) attempt; c) complete.
Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner have already buried a few of those gimmes in St. Louis and Columbus, where Omark has assisted on three of Edmonton’s six goals so far on this road trip.
Of course, Omark is also quite capable of coming out on the next shift, curling at the opposition blue line, sliding a pass across the ice to nobody in particular and watching it turn into an odd-man rush the other way.
He’s been on the ice for four of the eight even-strength goals-against on this trip.
Dangerous at both ends.
“He’s certainly worth the continued investment in time and opportunity,” said head coach Tom Renney, who’s seen enough good, bad and ugly to know there’ll be a heck of a player there once they patch up the glaring weaknesses.
“He made a couple of great plays last game. You know the skill part of his game is there. The big thing for me is that he puts himself in position to do the right thing defensively. Teams that win, their people know all about that.”
Some prima donnas shrug off giveaways and defensive zone naps as a by-product of their awesomeness — and that’s the vibe Omark gave off with the spin-o-rama move in his first game here — but he seems genuinely concerned about his overall game.
Ask him about the blind, laser-like passes to Paajarvi in Columbus and he barely acknowledges that they happened.
He was on for two key goals against, including the third-period equalizer that saw him get undressed by R.J. Umberger.
“Yes, but I made some mistakes that I don’t feel so happy with,” he said after a team meeting in a Nashville hotel.
“I try to look at the positive, but some games you have good confidence and can make plays, and some games you make those mistakes.”
He could get away with being one-dimensional in the Swedish Elite League, but not many can do that in the NHL.
Right now he’s minus-8 in 23 games, closing in on Gagner’s team-worst minus-12 (spread out over 52 games).
“I want to play so much in this league, and the coaches want you to play one way,” he said.
“They said before: ‘We don’t do turnovers here.’ So I’m thinking, don’t do it or I can’t play.”
The coaches still want him dangerous in the offensive zone — this is a team in desperate need of more threats — so they’re being careful in how they pass the message along.
They don’t want Omark scared to be Omark — but they can’t have him chasing the puck instead of playing his position in the defensive zone or tossing hand grenades all over the neutral ice.
“We have to make sure that we don’t stifle his ability to create and attack and be a threat that way, but we certainly have to continue to endorse five guys and a goaltender being really, really strong defensively,” said Renney, who’s inspired by Omark’s concern about the other side of his game.
“You have to have a confidence about you, some cockiness, if you’re going to achieve anything.
“I like that about him. He’s a good person and a good teammate and there is humility there. What I don’t want him to do is kill himself over this. He’s too valuable.”