For the last several seasons Ales Hemsky has been Edmonton's best and most exciting player. There have sometimes been dissenting voices with regard to the former, but the latter statement went uncontested. Linus Omark's emergence in 2010-11 changed all that. In his first game, Omark pulled a fun shoot-out move (which was made more fun by the laughably hypocritical comments from Martin St. Louis), but his magic with the puck went well beyond the skills exhibition. Omark was hard along the wall, and determined to get and keep the puck. He combined that with incredible creativity and wonderful hands to set up some beautiful goals and even more scoring opportunities, and was most often successful alongside fellow Swede Magnus Paajarvi. But as Bruce pointed out earlier today, there are still some significant questions about Omark's game.
Bruce had questions about whether Omark's ability to generate possession was actually generating chances, a fair question given that his Corsi rating was tops on the team and his scoring chance percentage was below the team average. That will certainly be something to keep an eye on going forward.
And that's really what I wanted to talk about. Where does Omark fit on a winning team going forward? I don't think he'll ever be one of Edmonton's top line wingers (those spots would seem to be claimed by some combination of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ales Hemsky in the near and long term), which means he's probably in line for a job in the middle six forwards, and given his offensive game, he seems best suited to a more offensive depth role than a defensive one. That's basically the role he played in 2010-11, and Omark mustered 27 points in 51 games despite some nasty shooting percentages at even strength (6.85%) and on the power play (8.00%, good for 24th worst out of 304 players with at leat 50 GP and 1:00 of PPTOI per game).
The power play is the really interesting item. Here's what Bruce had to say on the subject:
One other area where Omark showed promise was quarterbacking the power play... While Omark showed some nice skills, the results once again indicate his game was more sizzle than steak. Among those regular forwards who saw 90 seconds or more of powerplay action per game, Omark ranked dead last in goals for per 60 minutes when he was on the ice, and a team high 5.96 goals per 60 when he was on the bench.
I'll go ahead and disagree here. To me, it seems that there was plenty of both sizzle and steak if we're using the results to look forward. The Oilers weren't scoring a lot while Omark was on the ice, but they did shoot the puck a lot more frequently, which we know correlates well with future power play success. Here are the shot differentials for all of the Oilers who averaged at least one minute per game on the power play:
Omark is right at the top of the list, and we know from watching that he handled the puck more than a little bit. Further, Edmonton's top power play unit is all clustered near the bottom of this list, which strongly suggests that there is (or should be) an opportunity for Omark to step in.
Omark is in a really interesting spot. The Oilers can probably best use him in an offensive middle six role at even strength and as a major contributor on the power play. Of course, that role is conducive to scoring a lot of points, which is in turn conducive to getting paid. Omark's contract is up at the end of next season, and if the Oilers use him as I suspect they will, it could be a very difficult negotiation.
Projection: A full season in the NHL that sees Omark score fifty points with half of those coming from big minutes on the power play, and the rest from about twelve minutes per night at even strength on the second or third line.