Those are words any team likes to hear about their young prospects. In his first professional season, 20-year-old defenceman Martin Gernat is steadily improving.
Photo by Steven Christy
Martin Marincin would be a good example for Gernat and how the young Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect looks to develop. Marincin played in the American Hockey League for a couple of seasons, worked on his strength and defensive game and now he’s with the Oilers and playing at a high level.
Gernat is very similar to Marincin in not only coming from the same hometown in Slovia or by having the same first name, but by also being a tall, offensive defenceman with good reach.
Gernat has skated in 29 games for the Oklahoma City Barons this season. After struggling early to adjust to the professional game, Gernat has begun to show more and more potential.
“From the beginning, it was a little bit hard,” said the defenceman. “It’s the pro league. It’s the biggest men and new team and new chemistry, all the teammates, it’s all different. But, now it’s getting better and better.
Gernat is listed at 6-foot-5 on the Barons website and looks every inch of that height on the ice. Where he is looking to improve the most is with his strength.
“The summer was very good. I spent it in Edmonton. That helped me a lot. I worked out with a couple of Oilers guys so that was important and I am still working hard. I have to be stronger everywhere on the ice and off the ice so hopefully, it will come and it will put some meat on me. That will be important for me.”
It took Gernat 24 games to score his first professional goal. Since doing so twice on January 4, the defenceman has shown improvement in that area of his game. But why did it take so long for him to click offensively and defensively for the Barons? Gernat had a 55 point (9-46-55) season in 2011-2012 with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He also really turned things up in the playoffs that year with 13 points (7-6-13) in 20 games.
“It’s so tough for young defenceman,” said OKC Head Coach Todd Nelson. “Once they turn pro, there’s such a learning curve. I think, even more so than forwards. Marty… is going through the same things that Taylor Fedun and Marty Marincin went through last year. Brandon Davidson as well. Besides just playing on the ice, they have to learn to do things off the ice and be a pro. With Marty Gernat, the biggest thing with him is we all knew he had skill but he sees the ice very well.”
Gernat’s recent success has served as a boost of confidence for the rookie.
“Once again, he’s playing with more confidence,” Nelson said. “The things he has to work on is obviously, getting stronger and winning battles. Winning battles in front of the net, winning battles in the corners and it’s not so much the strength aspect. Just going through some of the workouts we’ve been doing recently, he’s a pretty strong kid. It’s a matter of having the will to do it night in and night out.
“As a coaching staff, we have to keep on him and he’s learning. He’s getting better. I like the way his confidence has grown after Christmas. He’s been contributing offensively, and he has tremendous upside. Once again, he’s a player that we have to be patient with and teach him to play the right way and be consistent with.”
Gernat is focused on bottling up his recently found confidence and transitioning it into more development.
“I’m trying to improve my d-zone because in my offensive zone, I’m feeling pretty comfortable,” he said. “It’s the d-zone, where I’m trying to improve myself and it’s getting better. I’m feeling more stronger in the corners and in front of the net. Still, I’ve got a couple of problems I have to work on that. It’s the boxing out of players in front of our goalie and that’s the next thing I want to improve.”