January 23, 2016
When Alex Ovechkin pantomimed lighting his stick on fire after scoring his 50th goal of the 2008-09 season, a large and loud contingent of the “old school” hockey brigade denounced his unique celebration. It was a sort of faux outrage that seems silly in retrospect, but the controversy at the time was very real.
However, even those who were upset with Ovechkin’s celly at the time have to respect Linus Omark for going the extra mile at the KHL All-Star Skills Competition this weekend.
Omark actually lit his stick on fire. Literally.
While his shot didn’t go in, Omark’s flare for the dramatic still scored him enough points to walk away from the shootout competition as champion.
Omark, a former AHLer, has pulled off some masterful shootout moves before (see 1, see 2,) but this is by far his most daring attempt.
For what it’s worth, the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau wanted to pull off something similar at the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus, Ohio last year, but had the idea rejected by the league for player safety concerns.
LAINE ERUPTS FOR HAT TRICK
While Linus Omark’s stick was about as hot as one can get, 2016 draft prospect Patrik Laine is as hot as someone can be in the figurative sense.
After a jaw-dropping performance at the World Juniors that saw his Finnish team capture gold, the 17-year-old hasn’t slowed down the scoring since rejoining Tappara in the Liiga (Finnish Elite League).
Laine has racked up five points in his five games with Tappara since returning from the World Junior tournament, including his first pro hat trick on Saturday.
It’s hard to believe the 6-foot-4, 200-plus lbs. Laine isn’t even 18 yet, and when you factor in the way he’s been scoring at the professional level (11G-10A in 29 games), it becomes even more unfathomable.
Still, Laine is far from a lock to go as the top forward pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft this summer. In fact, he may not even be the highest pick from his own country.
Scouts have been just as impressed with Jesse Puljujärvi, who actually led the World Juniors with 17 points (5G-12A) in seven games, and Arizona-born forward Auston Matthews.
Matthews went into the season as the favorite to go No. 1 overall, and based on his play with the ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League, he still holds that top spot in many pundits eyes. Matthews has a staggering 21 goals and 14 assists for 35 points in 28 NLA games.