European Hockey: Friday’s Five For 7 December

CHART TOPPER: Linus Omark’s play in Europe sends him to the top of this Friday’s Five

BY JEFF ANGUS

It is Friday, and that means it is time for Friday’s Five, a weekly series covering five of the most interesting stories from the world of European Hockey.

5. Colorado center Ryan O’Reilly, currently without a contract, has inked a two-year deal with Magnitogorsk of the KHL. O’Reilly is a restricted free agent, which means that Colorado retains his rights on the open market, but what does a two year deal mean? Does it indicate that O’Reilly sees the lockout extending into 2013-14? In Magnitogorsk he will be joining his older brother (and former Nashville Predator) Cal, as well as Nikolai Kulemin and Evgeni Malkin.

From the press release, it sounds as if O’Reilly may havean out-clause, no official word yet though, to return to the NHL at any time. It will be interesting to track this development – he was Colorado’s best center last season (by far), and he is still only 23 years old. Every contract signed by NHLers in Europe up to this point in time has been a “lockout” contract, meaning that there is an out clause to return to the NHL if and when the lockout ever ended.

INTERESTING BETS
Magnitogorsk to win the KHL Championship +750

4. A follow-up on the bizarre firing in St. Petersburg. SKA St. Petersburg’s former coach, Milos Riha, was fired a few weeks ago, even though he had SKA in first place in the league. There were rumors that SKA star forward Ilya Kovalchuk orchestrated the firing, but nothing with any substance has been uncovered regarding that. Well, we now know the reason:

“RBTH has learned that Riha had strained relations with a number of players on the team, though he never clashed with any of them publicly. Nevertheless, the club bosses decided that the Czech chief had lost control of the team; his emotional way of talking to the Board only added fuel to the fire. The decision to let Riha go was made personally by KHL president and SKA Board member, Alexander Medvedev.”

Turns out bizarre coaching decisions are not exclusive to North America.

INTERESTING BETS
SKA St. Petersburg to win the KHL Championship +440 (still the favourites)

3. The Detroit Red Wings have a way of uncovering talented European forwards in the late rounds of the draft. One to keep an eye on is winger Calle Jarnkrok. The 21-year-old forward is in the middle of his fourth SEL season with Brynas, and he currently has an impressive 27 points in 31 games. He plays a lot like Zetterberg – he isn’t big or fast (relative to other players), but he is gifted with and without the puck on his stick, and he understands the game at an elite level. He needs to get bigger and stronger before coming to North America, but he isn’t far off from NHL action.

2. Cory Schneider has started two games for Swiss team Ambri-Piotta, and he gets his third start of the season on Friday (today). The club he is playing for isn’t a strong one, which will allow him to see a lot of pucks. He won his debut last weekend, but dropped his second start in a 4-1 loss against the talented Zurich squad. Schneider’s team is currently in 11th place (out of 12 teams) in the NLA.

1. One player having a tremendous season in Switzerland is Linus Omark. The former/current Edmonton Oiler has been sensational for Zug, along with a pair of Red Wing teammates in Damian Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg. Omark was unable to come to terms on a new contract with the Oilers this past summer. He never really was given a crack at a top six roster spot in Edmonton, and his game isn’t suited to third or fourth line duty. If he wants to return to the NHL, I’d expect more than a few teams would be interested in acquiring his services. At the moment, Omark has scored 12 goals and added 31 assists (43 points) in only 28 games.

INTERESTING BETS
Zug to win the NLA Championship +600

He has 30 points in 65 career NHL games with Edmonton – pretty decent production considering the inconsistent ice time he received. Here is the Edmonton Journal’s take:

“I was rooting for this player to step up, but when given brief stints on lines with top forwards like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he never really excelled. He did OK, but just OK, failing to create an over-abundance of scoring chances. If offense is your calling card, you’ve got to step up on the attack when given that chance. Omark missed that mark. Not a bad player, certainly an OK one, but not the right fit in Edmonton.”

Omark possesses immense talent: