SUN Hockey Pool

Chip off the ol' Gagner

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

Sam Gagner was just a seven-year-old kid with stars in his eyes when Jarome Iginla first caught sight of him.

Back then, Iginla was on cloud nine, too.

He was a rookie with the Calgary Flames, playing alongside Gagner's dad, Dave, during the 1996-97 NHL season.

"I remember when he was a little guy," said Iginla yesterday of Sam -- now a rookie with the Edmonton Oilers -- before hitting the ice to face a much more grown-up version of the boy.

"I totally remember when he was here."

Iginla didn't forget him, either. And while he isn't keen on seeing Gagner do well when they share the ice surface, Iginla admits he has had his eye on the kid.

"I think it's great to see him doing really well. I kind of followed his world juniors and knew he was coming up in the draft," said Iginla, who also saw Sam enter his teens when they crossed paths in Toronto for the NHL awards. "I had a lot of respect for his dad. He had a big influence on me."

Rhett Warrener was introduced to Dave Gagner the following year in Florida.

He, too, remembers Sam's name being tossed around as a boy with potential.

"He's certainly proving it, now," said Warrener, who has a lasting impression of Dave's effortless skating.

"The one thing I remember about Dave -- I was so mad at him -- we were both coming back from injuries and doing a bag skate. He could skate, and I can't, so we were doing laps, and he basically lapped me.

"I was going as hard as I could, and he was just gliding along. He came up to me after and said, 'Sorry dude, I didn't mean to make you look bad.'

"The coaches could handle me not beating him, but getting lapped ..."

That was near the end of Dave's playing days. Sam is just at the start.

Showing that same promise, the kid has come a long way since joining the Oilers in the fall. Nearing 50 points as a freshman, he's really reached a new level in the past month.

Of his 13 goals, six of them were scored in the 10 games prior to last night's Battle of Alberta. He's also collected a half-dozen assists in that span.

Iginla says it's no surprise to him that Sam is so polished as a rookie. He has had a great teacher. Dave is currently an assistant coach with the OHL's London Knights.

"Dave was kind of always working with us, teaching us," said Iginla of his rookie NHL season, when the third spot on their line was often manned by another freshman, Jonas Hoglund.

"I can totally understand how he would teach, how he could help his son -- not just genetics but help him along the way.

"You could just see he loved to teach."


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