a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Friday, 16 March 2012

03/16/12 Is Omark the Next Robert Nilsson?

Right now nobody (including the Oilers) is sure if Linus Omark is a fit in Edmonton. Some think he's a brilliant offensive player, and others wonder if he is a bit like another player with promise that fell short: Robert Nilsson. What do the numbers say?

It looks like Omark will finish the year with the Oilers, so there's still time for him to turn some heads. The organization is certainly hoping that he makes the most of his time here, and gives them a clearer indication of whether or not he belongs on this team or if he's a useful part of a potential trade. Either way, Omark is likely to pursue a one-way deal for next season, which means if the Oilers want him they'll have to want him in the big show. Making the wrong determination on Nilsson ended in a buyout that the Oilers are still paying for, so the right decision is a must this time around. Below are some numbers.

First of all, both of these players had extremely productive stints in the American Hockey League. Omark has 47 points in 46 games for 1.02 p/g, while Nilsson had 98 points in 103 games for 0.95 p/g. Not much to separate them here. What about the NHL?

Because there is such a small sample size for Omark, I've only collected data from Nilsson's first 51 games in Edmonton during the 2007-08 season; the same number of games that Omark played as a rookie. Nilsson started that season with Edmonton at 22 years old and then turned 23 in January of 2008. Omark started his rookie season as a 23 year old and turned 24 in February of 2011. Right now he's 25 years old. The difference in age is mostly negligible. I didn't use Nilsson's rookie year because that was with the Islanders; in a different Conference, with different travel and competition, and it also pre-dates available advanced stats.

Robert Nilsson's first 51 games with Edmonton in 2007-08:

- 68 shots on goal
- 18 PIMs
- Plus-5
- 5 goals
- 28 assists
- 33 points
- 7.4% shooting percentage
- 13:55 TOI per game

Linus Omark's first 51 NHL games:

- 93 shots on goal
- 30 PIMs
- Minus-20
- 7 goals
- 22 assists
- 29 points
- 7.5% shooting percentage
- 14:24 TOI per game

Omark had many more shots on goal, but created slightly less offensively than Robert Nilsson did in his first 51 games in Edmonton in 2007-08. However, the Oilers were much better at scoring overall in 2007-08 than they were in 2010-11 (when Omark played his first 51 games). In 2007-08 the Oilers scored 220 goals as a team, while last year they scored just 191. Also, the Oilers were 19th in the NHL and had a winning record in Nilsson's first full season here, but they were 30th last year when Omark came in.

If we look at these two players' first full seasons in Edmonton as a whole (regardless of games played), we can get into a few advanced stats. All numbers below are 5x5.


- 53.6% offensive zone starts
- The fifth-best Relative Corsi of the forwards (40+ GP)
The highest PDO of all forwards not named Zach Stortini (40+ GP) < --- What is PDO?
- The fifth-toughest competition of Oilers forwards (40+ GP)
- 2.37 Points/60


- 53.4% offensive zone starts
- The third-best Relative Corsi of the fowards (40+ GP)
The lowest PDO of all Oilers forwards (40+ GP)
- The third-easiest competition of Oilers forwards (40+ GP)
- 1.78 Points/60

There are a few things going on here, but the PDO is most striking. Put simply, Nilsson was getting a lot of bounces going his way in 2007-08, while the opposite was true for Omark last year. The other stats are relatively close comparisons, so I would bet on Omark every time over Nilsson. In 2008-09, Nilsson's PDO came back down to more normal levels and his point totals came right down with it, even though his ice time increased.

The Verdict

In an unlucky season for Omark, he scored 0.53 points per game last year on a 30th place team that scored 191 goals as a group. In an extremely lucky season for Nilsson, he scored 0.58 points per game on a 19th place team that scored 220 goals as a group. Based on everything we've seen here, Omark is a better player than Robert Nilsson was; and keep in mind that Nilsson was not a rookie in his first full year in Edmonton, where the above data was collected from.

I'm not sure that there's enough here to state definitively that Linus Omark is going to be an offensively potent top-six player, but there is enough to quell a lot of fears that he'll be as much of a bust as Nilsson was.

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