Linus Omark is scoring at better than a point per game rate in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons. That he's doing so isn't news, Omark is a dynamic offensive talent with five years of professional experience and he's twenty-three years old. He had an outstanding training camp and dazzled fans with his ability to create offense for himself and linemates. Even though he clearly outplayed most of the forwards in camp, Steve Tambellini chose to send him to Oklahoma City.
Omark was not happy and told anyone that would listen:
"It is a little different. There is a lot of politics here."
He was right, of course. The Oilers didn't hold an open training camp, but Omark took it better than most expected.
"I am very disappointed, but it's not up to me. I think I played better and better every day. But that's the way this works. I am going to do my best in Oklahoma City and see what happens. They say I have to work on some stuff."
Tom Renney accused Omark of always dangling with the puck,
and Omark had to pack his bags for the A.
Given the Oilers' struggles this year in nearly all areas, but especially the power play, it seems that Omark deserves a shot and may get it sooner rather than later. But even before the Oilers call him up and get a first-hand account of his abilities against NHLers, it seems we may already know what sort of production the team could expect from the young winger. Desjardins' NHL Equivalency gives us a reasonable projection of league-to-league equivalencies and given Omark's already extensive professional history, we can use a number of data points to determine how effective Omark might be.
Converting his previous two seasons and projecting his 2010-2011 AHL season, we arrive at the table below.
Omark is essentially a 20 goal, 40 point man in the NHL. He's proven his mettle in three different professional leagues - the three toughest non-NHL leagues in the world, and has scored the equivalency of more than 40 points in each one. The Oilers have four 40 point scorers on the roster - Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff. The rest of the team is unproven (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi) or capable of hitting 40 points under the best circumstances once every four seasons or so.
The Oilers have put themselves in a strange spot with Omark. If he doesn't see NHL time, he can leave for the KHL in the offseason. The Oilers wouldn't get anything out of him. They could give him playing time, prove his worth and figure out if he would be a suitable second minutes lift wing behind Taylor Hall once Dustin Penner leaves. Given the opportunity, he might even improve the faltering power play, but the management won't know for sure until they call him up.
It's curious for a rebuilding team to leave a 40 point scorer in the AHL, and even more curious for a rebuilding team to ignore a valuable asset in a transition period. Icing the best roster is obviously not a priority for management right now and questions as to why still remain. But Omark is different. They have control over his entry-level contract, but his apparent comfort in the KHL means they don't control him the in the same way that they control Jordan Eberle, for example. Omark deserves a long look in the NHL this season not just because he's earned it, but because it's also solid asset management.