Young Gagner a survivor

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Few figured that Sam Gagner, one of the youngest at Canada's selection camp, would be the one to survive.

Even his father, former NHL player Dave Gagner, acknowledged the odds against his son were high.

"I guess I am a little bit surprised, but he has been confident all year and going to camp, he felt there was nothing to lose," Dave Gagner said. "He felt like he would not have a lot of attention and he was able to focus on what he had to do."

As a result, the younger Gagner earned a roster spot at forward. Not only did the 17-year-old beat higher-profile youngsters John Tavares and Angelo Esposito, he did so against stiff competition. With six forwards back from last winter's gold-medal team in Vancouver, there were just seven spots available.

When Canada departed for Europe on Dec. 15, the plan was for Gagner to start as the 13th forward, with an eye to getting him on the ice during power plays. But it's common for the 13th forward to start getting a regular shift once someone else falters.

On the wing

Also, though he can play centre, Gagner likely will line up on the wing. Gagner, who has been tearing up the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights, should be a high pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

Having a dad who enjoyed a long professional hockey career -- Dave played for seven teams in 15 seasons including the Maple Leafs, Flames and Canucks -- has been a key in Gagner's rise, talent aside.

"He has been a tremendous help for me," Sam Gagner said. "He has supported me throughout my life, especially this year behind the bench (Dave is an assistant coach with the Knights)."

Getting a leave of absence from the Knights was easy for the elder Gagner. The first person who told him he had to go to Sweden to watch his son was Knights co-owner/coach Dale Hunter.

"Hockey is a humbling sport," Dave Gagner said. "I'm happy for the moment and I am proud of Sam, but it's just part of the process. It is hard to get carried away after seeing over the years what can happen in hockey."


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