SUN Hockey Pool

Buy a big house, kid

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Tonight was supposed to be the ninth and final game in Sam Gagner's NHL audition, the point of no return in Edmonton's decision to keep him in the NHL or return him to junior.

And tomorrow morning the Oilers were supposed to tell the 18-year-old rookie to either pack his bags or buy a house.

Turns out Gagner made the decision for them ... quite some time ago. House it is.

"Get a big one on the river," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "You're OK."

With seven points in his first eight games, there's very little doubt the Oilers scoring leader is ready for the NHL.

"It's pretty impressive what he's been able to do," said MacTavish. "With him I think it was the summit series that put him into the mental state where he really felt like he belonged. I can see it in his body language and in the way he played that he's gaining confidence. He wants more and more responsibility."

He's just happy to be here. When they told him he was staying, it's like he beat the Russians all over again.

"It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had," said Gagner. "This is where you want to be. It's a dream come true for me to be here. I got off to a good start, but there's still a long way to go and a lot left to prove."

The time element of his audition, having to make or break his case in nine starts or less, is too much for some 18-year-olds to handle, but Gagner, who's a lot older than his age, said he never gave it a second thought.

"I really didn't want to look at it as a 10-game thing," he said. "I thought it would wear on me too much. I just wanted to play."

As for the house, he, Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert are renting Ethan Moreau's old place. Moreau had it on the market, but took it off so the rooks could have a place.

"That's one of the reasons he's captain," said Gagner.

"That was unbelievable of him to do that for us."

ICE CHIPS ...

With Joni Pitkanen scheduled for arthroscopic knee surgery tomorrow, the Oilers recalled defenceman Ladislav Smid from Springfield.


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