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FEATURE: Hyman hits new heights

The 30-year-old forward produced new offensive career-highs and became an important figure in the culture of the Oilers during his first season with the club

by Jamie Umbach @JamieUmbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - When he was set to become a free agent last summer, Zach Hyman didn't want to talk to any other teams.

The Toronto, Ont. product asked for permission from his hometown Maple Leafs ahead of time to speak to the Edmonton Oilers, and came to the city on his own volition with his wife and then-seven-month-old son to get a further feel for where they could be spending the next seven years.

Hyman knew after that visit that he wanted to be an Edmonton Oiler.

The dust has settled on the 30-year-old's debut season with the Blue & Orange and a run to the Western Conference Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that saw him register 11 goals and five assists in 16 post-season contests, including a goal in every game of Edmonton's second-round Battle of Alberta triumph over the Calgary Flames.

The strong playoff showing for Hyman followed a career-high regular season for goals (27), assists (27), points (54) and power-play points (10) while equaling his best-ever short-handed point total (4) as a versatile top-six option and special-teams presence for his new club.

When speaking to the media for the final time of the '21-22 NHL season, Hyman could do nothing but rebuff his decision to commit to Edmonton following what was a terrific first year in Oil Country.

"I thought I was going to be a good fit when I decided to come here, but it's been everything and more," he said. "Just honestly one of the best decisions I made in my life was to come here and play with these guys. Everybody's been so welcoming in the city. We talked about the fans a little bit not just making me feel comfortable, but my family feel comfortable. I'm just really happy to be here for a long time."

Video: RAW | Zach Hyman, Evander Kane 06.07.22

Hyman's endearment to his new club was reciprocated by the fanbase in the way it appreciated the forward's team-first and friendly approach. On the ice, his ability to protect the puck and own the front of the net with his physicality as part of a strong two-way game only increased his clout to Oilers fans in year one of his seven-year deal.

"It's awesome," he said. "Loudest rink I've played in for sure and just an incredible fanbase that's so supportive. People here are so nice. They're just polite and so happy to have you on their team and to be fans. It's awesome and amazing to play in front of fans like that."

What is equally important as Hyman's career-best point totals and his influence on his new city is how engrained he's already become in the culture of the club.

As a new face in the locker room, Hyman rode the same trials and tribulations of the '21-22 season growing closer with his teammates through the adversity of a tough mid-season stretch brought on by COVID complications and poor results.

The Oilers came out of it on the other side with a new coach and renewed optimism to finish second in the Pacific Division and win two rounds of playoff hockey -- including staving off elimination against the Los Angeles Kings and a five-game series win over the Flames before the Oilers were bounced by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final.

Video: EDM@CGY, Gm2: Hyman cashes in on breakaway

"You're obviously disappointed. Only one team leaves happy," Hyman said of Edmonton's Round 3 defeat. "We made it to the final four obviously, and I think given the roller-coaster nature of the season, it was a little bit unorthodox. We added [Evander Kane] midway through the year, a coaching change, and we were able to kind of stick together. One thing about this group is that it didn't quit. We believed in each other and we went on a great run and faced probably the best team in the league."

Despite being a critical part of Edmonton's deepest playoff run since 2006, Hyman and the rest of the Oilers core that includes Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins know they were still eight wins away from lifting hockey's holy grail. It was a massive leap by Edmonton to make it to the third round, just a leap nonetheless as more progress is still needed to push further into the playoffs next season.

"It's valuable, but it's only an impact if you progress on it and if you build on it and take a step forward," Hyman said. "It's experience for everybody, and I think it was the first time for a lot of us in the Western Conference Final. We've got a really good core, then we've got a lot of really good young players.

Video: THE PANEL | Season Wrap

The great hockey teams like the two clubs currently waging the Stanley Cup Final had to work their way through roadblocks along the way to arrive there, and Hyman understands the Oilers will be no different.

"I think if you want a chance to win, you have to put yourself in a position to have a chance every year," he said. "I think those teams -- Tampa Bay and Colorado -- they've continually put themselves in good positions like home ice early. Colorado won the President's Trophy last year, they came second in the league this year, and they've learned how hard it is to win and how you can't take anything for granted.

"I think you can take things from that, you can take things from Tampa, but again, you have to do it over and over again and you can't be satisfied making the final four. You have to be just as hungry and go above and beyond to give yourself a chance every year."

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