Just look at that excitement. Linus Omark's personality didn't always seem to translate to the liking of Oilers fans (or interviewers for that matter), but on the ice we all understand him. He looked like a keeper this season, even before he scored 5 goals in one AHL game. Omark played well enough in training camp to deserve a spot on the roster, but instead of pouting when he was cut, he lit up the American League and earned a call-up for the rest of the year. He also earned every bit of a B- grade.
Through the rest of this series, I've looked at the shot totals from the Big Three rookies. Omark represents the first deviation from the others, in that he didn't put up a load of shots on goal. In fact, with 76 shots in 51 games, he was only on pace for 122 SOG in a full season. That would be a number similar to what Andrew Cogliano has averaged over his career thus far. However, Omark is clearly a more dynamic offensive threat than Cogliano.
That fact is illustrated by the way his point totals progressed. Below is the chart. As he played 51 games, I've divided his season into three 17-game segments.
|Games 1-17||8 points||0.47 Points per Game|
|Games 18-34||8 Points||0.47 Points per Game|
|Games 35-51||11 Points||0.65 Points per Game|
From March 17th to the end of the season Omark had 9 points in 12 games, including 5 in the last 5 games of the year. However, at least part of his improved numbers can be explained by his ice time. It was fairly infrequent for Omark to play more than 17 minutes per game when the team was healthy. After March 17th, by which time injuries had gutted the core, he was playing up to 20 or more minutes a night with regularity. Adding to the increased ice time would obviously be the fact that Omark was utilized as a go-to offensive player when the team's other options were all in the infirmary.
Still, he proved that he was a good option in a pinch. Five of his last 11 points down the stretch were scored against playoff teams, or the Flames who were battling to get in. He also had two points in the final game of the season against Colorado, when he had no particular reason to work hard other than to impress the coaches and fans.
There have been some comparisons made between Omark and Ales Hemsky, and what each brings to the table. They certainly have similar skill sets, but there's no way to know if Omark's ceiling as a player is anywhere near as high as that of Ales Hemsky. What we can do is go back and look at Hemsky's rookie season and compare it to Omark's. This comparison will be a little unfair, since Hemsky was 18 as a rookie and Omark is 24, but it's less unfair to Omark than trying to compare their two 24-year-old seasons.
Hemsky: 59 games played, 6-24-30 (0.51 points per game), plus-5. 50 SOG (0.85 shots per game). Averaged 12:04 minutes of ice time.
Omark: 51 games played, 5-22-27 (0.53 points per game), minus-16. 76 SOG (1.5 shots per game). Averaged 15:21 minutes of ice time.
The comparison is a lot closer than I first expected; right down to the goal-to-assist ratio. Omark had more shots than Hemsky, but he's also older and has played in professional leagues for some time, while Hemsky jumped right up from the QMJHL. Shot totals can sometimes be a function of the size and physical maturity of a player, since it requires them to get near the net. This might help explain the difference with the shots.
Omark also averaged significantly more playing time than Hemsky but had fewer points. On one hand, Hemsky was on a playoff team and therefore he should theoretically have had better linemates, while Omark's team was 30th. On the other hand, Hemsky wouldn't necessarily have been used in a key offensive role. And, after magically sprouting a third hand, we can recall that Omark was playing behind two very good right wingers for most of the year and didn't always enjoy a key role either.
It's impossible to predict exactly how good Omark will be, but the point of these numbers is to show that what you're seeing on the ice isn't a mirage. Hemsky and Omark are similar in more ways than simply their ability to dangle. The main difference is that Omark already seems to be more dogged and determined than Hemsky is to this day.
The organization obviously didn't feel secure enough in Linus Omark to trade Hemsky, despite the latter's injury history. However, Omark's rookie campaign was strong enough to suggest that if Hemsky is traded one day, the team might not have far to look for a replacement. It's always good to have options, and Omark definitely played himself into the mix.