Cogs in the wheel

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Either the Edmonton Oilers had an unbelievably deep and competitive rookie camp or Andrew Cogliano is getting better with age.

It's only been two weeks since the 20-year-old centre was barely noticeable during three days of scrimmages in Yellowknife, but he's commanding all kinds of attention the deeper he gets into Edmonton's pre-season.

Two goals in Calgary, including the overtime winner, and another the game before in Vancouver, have elevated a guy who didn't look ready for prime time into a serious candidate for opening night in the NHL.

"He just seems to get better and better," said head coach Craig MacTavish, after Cogliano's stellar effort in Cowtown. "It's intriguing for everybody. We're looking to make changes and he's a guy who very definitely has his foot in the door."

It usually works the other way around with young talents trying to crack an NHL lineup - they often dazzle early on against AHLers and fellow prospects, then lose momentum after the first round or two of cuts.

But Cogliano, lured out of Michigan State two years early by an Oilers team eager to get him into their pro system, is showing he can still strut his stuff when the going gets tough.

"I think he's got plenty of game to be confident in his own ability," said MacTavish. "He wants the puck, you can see that in his game. He looks to be dependable defensively, a good positional player, so all systems go for him."

Edmonton's first pick, 25th overall, in the 2005 draft, Cogliano says he's feeling more comfortable by the day.

"The first game I thought I had a good game, the second game was better and the last two periods (in Calgary) I was even better than the last game," said the five-foot-10, 180-pound Toronto native. "It's good to get some momentum. As of right now I have a lot of confidence.

"I'm playing four-on-four situations, power-play situations and as the games go on he's gaining some confidence in me, which is nice."

Cogliano showed resilience and maturity well beyond his years in Calgary, rebounding from a bad first period (he took two penalties, one that resulted in a goal, and left Jarome Iginla open in the slot on another) by scoring two goals of his own in the final 40 minutes.

"He's productive offensively, he gets a lot of chances and I like the speed that he brings," said MacTavish, who wants to take a good long look at him over the final three pre-season games.

"We want to give him as much time as we can to get indoctrinated to the NHL - he's not going to have much problem with the pace, but when the checking closes in then we'll see if he's as productive as he has been."

If he does, it'll be awfully hard to keep him off the team.

"I don't really want to talk about it too much or dwell on it a lot," said Cogliano. "Just keep on practising hard, working out hard and hopefully when the team comes around I'm on the roster.

"I don't want to peak now and start going downhill, that's the worst thing I could do. Just keep my focus, keep my head on straight and keep playing."

Because he's not the only kid who's turning heads.

"Robert Nilsson is a top talent, you can see by the passing out there, and he works really well with Jarret Stoll and Raffi,"said Cogliano.

"And Kyle Brodziak is a hard working guy who knows he has a shot at making this team and he's taking full advantage.

"I have to keep up with those guys. I'm the youngest of the three, I'm the guy coming out of college. If I keep up, I think I'll do well."


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