SUN Hockey Pool

Makin' the grade

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Sam Gagner has yet to make an elaborate purchase with his first NHL contract.

The Edmonton Oilers rookie wanted to make it official before starting to throw cash around. Last night, by playing his 10th game with the Oilers, he did.

"I'll probably wait a little bit before I do anything," Gagner said. "I'll invest it for now. I have to get a couple of suits that's for sure. I have one suit. I switch up the tie, but it's the same suit."

READY TO PLAY

It only took him a handful of games to prove he was ready to play in the NHL.

Until he suited up last night against the Los Angeles Kings, Gagner could have been sent back to the London Knights without having the first year of his contract kick in.

"I think it helps me relax a little bit, but at the same time, I need to play the same way and try to help the team win," Gagner said. "That's the way I'm approaching it. I'm going to have fun with it, continue to work hard, stay focused and prepare the same way."

The Oilers can still send Gagner back to junior at any point this season, but they'll have to pay his NHL salary and the year will count towards his entry-level contract.

Gagner has seven points in his first nine games. He's never looked out of place in the NHL and is being relied upon in important situations.

"For us it wasn't an issue," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "But putting yourself in that position as an 18-year-old, I'm sure it's taken a lot of that pressure off.

"Once you get the exposure of the NHL game you don't really want to go back to junior. It's a good obstacle to overcome for him."

Gagner has played in all but one game for the Oilers this season. He did not dress in the first encounter against the Minnesota Wild, in part, to keep him away from the Derek Boogaard.

"He's got so much composure with the puck - it's the opposite," MacTavish said. "When I see him with the puck I relax because I know he's going to make a play with it. Even in overtime the other night, four-on-four you know the play is not dying with him.

"It's a real positive from my perspective because you know you have to play the guy and develop him and he's not making any mistakes. Normally when you're trying to develop guys and you put them in situations where you're not quite sure they're capable of handling where they're going to get caught and they're going to get burnt. But I haven't had to pay a price for paying him at all."

In the 5-4 shootout win over the Wild on Thursday, Gagner was even called upon to take a shot.

SCORING

He came through scoring the Oilers first goal.

"That was pretty fun. It's one of the most exciting plays in hockey and I was happy to get the chance," Gagner said.

"I just wanted to try and do whatever I could to get the puck in the net and help the team win."


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