EDMONTON - There was a time when Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano were touted in Edmonton as the second coming.
The pair took the Edmonton Oilers by storm in their rookie seasons, developed a strong friendship and nearly dragging the team into a post-season they had no business being a part of.
Five years later, Gagner is still working on matching his rookie totals, and Cogliano is gone, making a return Friday as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s too bad they have a game (Thursday) and we don’t have a chance to see each other,” Gagner said. “We got to know a lot about each other, we were roommates on the road and we lived together with Tom (Gilbert) for our first few years.
“I’m sure both of us have a lot of stories that we want to keep private, but we had a lot of fun. Those are experiences you can’t take back, I wish him well there and hopefully he has a good, long career in Anaheim.”
Cogliano was traded this summer in exchange for a second-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Heading into Thursday’s game against the Calgary Flames, Cogliano had eight goals and six assists for 14 points on the year.
He recently signed a three-year, $7.1-million contract extension with the Ducks.
“It was tough to see him go,” said Gagner. “You realize it’s part of the business and it happens all the time. It still doesn’t make it any easier. It’s a guy you hung out with every day for the past four or five years. I became really good friends with Andrew and when he left it was tough. But you have to find a way to get over it, move forward and make sure that you’re coming to the rink no matter who’s here and who’s gone.”
Cogliano, too, is still chasing his rookie point total.
The Toronto native collected 45 points in his rookie season, but then saw his offensive production wane as his role with the Oilers began to change.
Eventually he was deemed expendable by the club, which wanted to make room for a new generation of high-end draft picks.
“I thought Andrew last year found his game,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “He found how he could be important to a team. I think he will build on that now moving forward. You have to give up things in order to get things and I thought Cogs is a really good kid and has assets that people playing in this league can only dream of.
“I think he doesn’t have anything but upside as long as the expectations are where they belong and he can play in that domain where he can have success.”
Former teammates on Canada’s world junior team, Gagner and Cogliano formed a strong bond in Edmonton and gave fans something to get excited over during their first season with the Oilers.
The two still keep in touch nearly on a daily basis and Gagner is looking forward to going up against his former roommate for the first time on Friday.
“He’s a couple of years older than I am, but we both grew up in Toronto and have a similar circle of friends,” Gagner said. “We kind of knew each other beforehand, but it wasn’t until we got here that we became really good friends.”
Notes … Ryan O’Marra was still feeling under the weather on Thursday and may not be ready to play Friday. Therefore, the Oilers have recalled Josh Green from the Oklahoma City Barons. Green is expected to centre the Oilers fourth line on Friday.