Linus Omark may be the first prospect in Oilers history who has generated more hype than his actual body weight. A 5'9", 168-pound YouTube sensation, the ingredients are all there for Omark to create more buzz than actual NHL offense. Every other week or so there'll be a new highlight of Omark, the advertising patches on his jersey flapping in the breeze, making some sweet dangle or another and generally looking like Jari Kurri without all that irritating defense stuff. And we'll go "woo" and mentally start penciling him in with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle on the line that will send us to the Stanley Cup once again.
What a shame that Craig MacTavish isn't still around, so we can't blame him for Omark's inevitable failure.
It's been popular to compare Omark to another great YouTube artist, Rob Schremp, but the comparison doesn't hold water. For one thing, Schremp is bigger. For another thing, at age twenty-three Schremp has recorded 25 points in 44 NHL games with the New York Islanders, while the only-a-few-months-younger Omark is currently on 36 points in 56 KHL games with the Moscow Dynamo.
So, Omark isn't quite as good as Rob Schremp. The guy who drove us all insane until we lost him on waivers. That guy.
This is the second part of a series with an indeterminate number of parts (the first part, Teemu Hartikainen, having come all the way back in December) saying why all those prospects we're hoping will pull our bacon out of the fire actually sort of stink. Omark stinks worse than most of them, and even though we recently ranked him number six on our Top 25 Under 25 I'm not taking that as an endorsement. We are, after all, the worst team in the NHL, so our top 25 under 25 aren't necessarily that good.Any debunking of Omark's potential has to begin with his physique. The man is a hobbit. He's actually smaller than Martin St. Louis or Mike Cammalleri. Although being small does not inherently disqualify you from making the NHL, it is obviously a big disadvantage and you have to be that much more skilled to succeed in spite of it. Just ask former Oiler prospect Martin St. Pierre, who's averaged over a point per game in the American Hockey League three times and has a career NHL line of 41 games played and eight points. Or Tony Salmelainen, who once had 55 points in 53 games with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish SM-liiga.
There's no evidence he has that level of skill. Right now he's a distant third in scoring with the Dynamo, behind a couple decent NHL veterans in Mathias Weinhandl and Jiri Hudler. This isn't bad, but it's nothing to write home about for a guy who turned twenty-three in February. By the time he turned 23, the aforementioned Hudler had already dominated the American Hockey League and was getting his NHL campaign then. Omark is instead facing inferior players in the KHL and not exactly dominating.
I know, I know, he went to the KHL for the paycheque. A two-way contract even at the NHL rookie maximum wouldn't pay Omark what the Russians can. But long-term, his earning potential in North America is multiples higher if he pans out. Does he not realize that, or does he just not think he's going to pan out? Anybody who'd retard their development so he can collect a medium-sized paycheque now instead of a modest paycheque now and a giant paycheque a few years down the road... is that a good sign in anyone's books?
Omark's reputation was built last year, when Lulea played the hell out of Omark and he responded by averaging more than a point per game. But that was a big jump over his scoring the previous year, and even considering the difference in skill between the KHL and the SEL he's still dipped this season getting first-line ice time in Moscow. There's just not that much there with Linus Omark. His offense is middling. Gushing Kevin Prendergast quotes aside, his defense is lacking. His commitment is questionable. He has some sweet dangles but so do lots of guys who get a rude awakening when they reach the NHL.
I don't think that, even if Omark comes to North America, he'll ever been as good as Rob Schremp is now, and that's a damning statement.