Sam Gagner took a well- deserved break last night.
The Edmonton Oilers prospect has travelled thousands of miles the last two weeks while taking part in the Super Series against the Russians, in which he was Team Canada's leading scorer with 15 points in the eight games.
Gagner was a spectator for the 20th annual Golden Bears vs. Oilers Rookies contest last night at Clare Drake Arena, which saw the Bears notch a 2-1 victory.
"It's been a long haul, but it's been a great experience and a lot of fun," said Gagner. "I was given an opportunity to play with some really skilled players right off the bat and it really worked out well."
Gagner was part of Canada's gold medal team at the world junior championships last Christmas. Although he had a good tournament, he didn't record a point. The Super Series became his coming-out party.
"I really wanted to establish myself, and I think my prior world junior experience really helped me have the tournament I did," Gagner said.
The son of former NHLer Dave Gagner was taken sixth overall by the Oilers in June, and the smooth skating playmaker will be given every opportunity to make the big club at training camp.
"He's obviously coming off a high. He's had a great year and a great series," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers vice-president of player personnel.
"You don't want to put too much expectation on a young man to come in here, but we think he's coming in here at the right time.
"He's got all the tools and he's going to get a fair opportunity."
Gagner is coming off a fantastic Ontario Hockey League rookie season where he scored 118 points in 53 games with the London Knights. After dominating the OHL for one season, and being drafted in the first round, it's been a very memorable year for Gagner.
"It's definitely been a short summer, but being drafted and being able to take part in the Super Series has been a whirlwind experience, but something I will never forget," he said..
Gagner now prepares for the Oilers main camp which officially opens Thursday with player medicals. The first on-ice session goes Friday.
"I am excited. This is a whole new challenge for me. I have proved I can play at the OHL level, but the NHL is a whole other animal," said Gagner.
"I feel I have worked very hard and I am going to do everything I can to get to the next level."
Prendergast played a key role in drafting Gagner this summer and he feels the highly touted prospect won't disappoint. He feels Gagner will see a lot of action during the Oilers exhibition season.
"He's a well-prepared young man and he played great during the Super Series, but now he comes down to reality and he'll be competing for a job. I don't think he'll disappoint," said Prendergast.
"It's up to him to say 'Hey, I belong in this league.' And if he shines, he shines. If he does, we aren't stupid ... we are going to keep him."