SUN Hockey Pool

MacT can't wait to see Gagner

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

YELLOWKNIFE -- With five goals and six assists through the first six games of the Canada-Russia Super Series, Sam Gagner is making the Edmonton Oilers scouts look awfully good.

There was a lot of pressure on the organization not to blow the opportunity with the sixth pick overall, their highest choice in 10 years, and the 18-year-old is relieving a lot of it with his performance against the Russians.

"It was a pretty heavy price in terms of what we had to pay and what we had to endure (to get that high a pick), but it looks like money well spent," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who can't wait to see Gagner at the Oilers main camp next week.

"He's played exceptionally well. He's going to come into camp absolutely on top of his game from a confidence standpoint.

"That's the thing you worry about with 18 year olds coming in, a lot of times it takes them a camp to integrate themselves competitively. I'm sure he's coming in trying to earn a spot and the last couple of weeks have gone a long way to enhance his confidence."

MacTavish said he fully expects one of Edmonton's top prospects to crack the lineup this year.

"We need (Andrew) Cogliano, we need Gagner or (Rob) Schremp, one of those three guys for sure to step up and fill a spot. It would be a disappointment if one of them didn't stay."

NILSSON ALL BUT IN: Robert Nilsson, acquired in the Ryan Smyth trade with the Islanders, is being counted on to make the team.

"We have him pencilled in right now," said MacTavish. "It's up to him what he does with it, but we do have a spot for him. We saw him play last year in the playoffs in Wilkes-Barre. We need some power play help and he has the ability to do that.

"He needs a chance at the NHL level. He has to be deserving of that chance ... We feel like it's his spot to lose, for sure."

CULTURAL CAMP: For the Oilers and their hosts in Yellowknife, this three-day visit is much a cultural exchange as it is a training camp.

The players and coaches are touring the town the whole time they're here, visiting hospitals and schools. On their first night here, they met with a native elder for a "smudging," a sacred ceremony where the elder extracts negative energy.

"It was amazing, one of the greatest experiences I've had in my life," said GM Kevin Lowe. "He spoke and he had some really good messages for the young guys about life."

And the trip itself sends a strong message about what it means to play for the Oilers.

"It's a good beginning to their professional careers," said Lowe. "That they know if they play for the Edmonton Oilers there is a community responsibility. It's a wonderful opportunity wherever you go, but particularly here in Yellowknife.

"Coming here was a really easy decision for us."

- TYCHKOWSKI

BELL TO RING FOR BUCKY

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CP) -- David Bell, an assistant coach with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack the last three years, has been named as an assistant coach to Kelly Buchberger of the AHL's Springfield Falcons. Bell, 30, joined the Attack coaching staff after his playing career ended in 2004.


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