This is Jani Rita, Christmas 1998. I can relate to all of those Rob Schremp fans who are bewildered by the slow progress toward stardom for their man. Jani Rita scored one of the most beautiful goals I’ve ever seen at a WJC’s (he did it at the 1999 games, against an American goalie. It was a Bobby Hull slapshot) and from that day forward he was a guy I believed in.
Still do really, I keep waiting for him to show up at someone’s training camp and wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jani ends up being this generation’s David Vyborny.
I always like to update former Oiler prospects throughout the long winter. It’s like seeing a long lost friend on the street and catching up on the news, and as always this time there are a few surprises.
JANI RITA: Jani is leading his SM-LIIGA team (Helsinki) in points, 4-4-8 in 10 games. Mike Bishai (10gp, 1-4-5) is also on that team.
JESSE NIINIMAKI: The Oilers most famous first round flameout this decade plays in Austria now, for Olimpija Ljubljana. He’s pointless (be nice) in 2 games so far.
DOUG LYNCH: Also in Austria but having a much better career. Lynch as you’ll recall had a nice foundation building before a hand injury derailed his career. He plays for Vienna and in 10 games he’s 4-3-7.
ALEXEI SEMENOV: He’s barely hanging on in San Jose. In fact, if we assume all 30 teams carry 7 defenders our boy Alexei is probably in the 200-210 range on the league’s depth chart. HF Sharks board has all kinds of bothersome things to say about him. Not such a career for a highly touted fellow.
MICHAEL HENRICH: Back in the German League (DEL, plays for Wolfsburg) but I don’t have stats on him yet. Scored 16 in what looks like it might be a pretty good league (the scoring rates are not crazy and there are a few former NHLers).
KENNY SMITH: Former Harvard defender is playing for Manchester of the Elite Ice Hockey League. I don’t know a thing about their league but the website is better than Springfield’s.
ALEXEI MIKHNOV: Buddy was off to a fast start but has cooled lately. Although he isn’t technically a “former Oiler” I doubt we’ll see him again and he seems to fit here better now. 13gp, 1-6-7 so he’ll need to get hot to approach his numbers for Lokomotiv (52gp, 14-20-34) one year ago.