by Marc Ciampa
Rob Schremp will wear a familiar number to Oiler fans this year - 44.
When Rob Schremp was one of the final cuts for the Oilers near the end of training camp last year, he could have done one of two things.
He could have taken his time to ease back into action with the London Knights after clearly being disappointed after coming so close to playing in the show. Alternatively, he could have taken it as an opportunity to improve some aspects of his game and show that he can dominate at that level.View Schremp's career statistics
With a league-leading 57 goals and 145 points despite only playing in 57 games, its clear that Schremp chose the latter.
"There are things he's going to need to do better to play at this level and we communicated that to him last year," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
And Schremp didnt stop there. After his strong regular season, he followed that up with an outstanding postseason – leading the league again with 47 points in 19 outings. After the playoffs were over he got a taste of life in the pros after joining the Oilers at the end of their Stanley Cup run and then followed that up with a rigorous off-season conditioning program.
"I think I was more focused in my off-ice training," said Schremp. "I was a little chubby last year. A little pudgy guy but got in shape this summer."
The off-ice training also involved a change in eating habits as he looked to come into camp this year at the top of his game.
"Got on a new diet, stopped eating McDonald's which kind of sucked," Schremp joked.
MacTavish commented how the organization has been very impressed with Schremps work ethic.
"We've been very happy with Robbie. I don't think there's been too many young guys who have come into the organization with as much notoriety as he," he said. "He's handled himself extremely professionally."
Despite the clear improvement in Schremps conditioning off the ice and, through the first few days of rookie camp, his performance on the ice it may be more difficult for him to crack the lineup this year.
The Oilers lineup packs a lot more offensive punch up front this season than it did at this time last year and with only one or two available spots up front Schremp may find himself honing his craft at the American League level.
"He certainly has an element that not a lot of other players have in terms of the offence he can bring. We're definitely intrigued by that," MacTavish said. "Whether he needs some time at the American League level will remain to be seen and we'll assess that as camp goes along."
Oilers V.P. of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast stated that offensively Schremp has all the tools needed to succeed at hockeys highest level. Its his play away from the puck that will determine where he begins the 06-07 campaign.
"From an offensive standpoint we know exactly what we're going to get from Robbie. He's going to be able to create things," Prendergast stated. "In order to play at the National Hockey League level, he's got to be able to play in his own end a little better and skate a little better."
Certainly, Schremp will be one of the more interesting players to watch as camp continues and pre-season games get underway. He will certainly battle right to the end to ensure hes in the lineup on opening night.
"You don't come here to get sent down. That's not my expectation," he said.