Linus Omark has proven himself in some of the best leagues in the world: the Swedish Elite League and the Kontinental Hockey League, but he has yet to show a thing in the NHL. This of course is a by-product of a system that asks players to take big pay-cuts and spend time riding busses in the AHL when they could be making seven figures just by staying where they’re at, but all the same there will be legitimate concerns about Omark until he comes over.
As much as I like the player, I think he’s ranked too highly here, but rather than argue that position I’ll explain after the jump why Omark is so highly regarded by the panel here.
Omark’s offence has really taken off since being selected as an overage player in 2007. That offence is the single biggest ingredient Omark brings to the table, although some unreliable sources suggest that Omark brings a lot more than just offence. One of those sources is Oilers assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast:
Kevin Prendergast saw Omark earlier this year and was very excited about him. Prendergast told me he's a more skilled Patrick Thoreson, meaning he plays bigger than the 5.09 168 pounds he's listed as. The Oilers assistant G.M. also told me he thinks Omark is smart enough to play with Ales Hemsky as well.
The first thing to keep in mind here is "consider the source." Kevin Prendergast is such an optimist that he could probably still talk up Jesse Niinimaki (c’mon guys, he’s having a career year in goals). But it’s one more grainy photo to add to the Omark bulletin board, joining a bunch of YouTube videos (seriously, watch the one above - even I was impressed) and some strong World Championship play.
But while we may have questions about Omark’s size and about his ability to play a two-way game, there isn’t any question about his ability to put the puck in the net. Once again, I defer to Gabriel Desjardins’ equivalency studies.
At this point, I'd suggest that a reasonable projection for Omark's NHL debut is in the 15-goal/40-point range, which would put him ahead of most of the Oilers' young roster players (in this case I'm thinking specifically of Cogliano and Nilsson).
I'm all for bringing Omark over and giving him a shot at an NHL job, although I think it's wrong to have him ahead of O'Sullivan/Brule until he's shown that his game translates to North America. There's not only on-ice changes to worry about, but plenty of players have struggled with the different lifestyle off the ice. That said, there's nothing to be gained by leaving him in Europe - Omark has already proven he's an elite player in those leagues and it's time to see what he can do at hockey's highest level.