ST. LOUIS, MO - Zack Kassian will have 500 NHL games to his name when he hits the ice in St. Louis on Wednesday, but he's confident some of the best years of his career are yet to come.
The 28-year-old is slated to hit the milestone tomorrow in the middle of his ninth NHL season after he was selected 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2009 NHL Draft.
Kassian (12G, 11A) is on pace to shatter his offensive career highs this season, needing four more goals, seven more assists and seven more points to establish new personal bests across the board.
Video: EDM@DAL: Kassian caps off excellent passing play
"It's a cool accomplishment, but at the same time I know I have a lot of gas left in the tank," he said of the impending milestone following Tuesday's practice at Enterprise Center.
Kassian will be the 27th member of his draft class to hit 500 games, just behind Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm and just ahead of New York forward Chris Kreider. Oilers teammate Alex Chiasson isn't far behind Kassian as he's projected to suit up for his 486th NHL game tomorrow in St. Louis.
It hasn't exactly been the smoothest path to 500 games for Kassian, as he entered the NHL's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program at the start of the 2015-16 season after getting traded from Vancouver to Montreal that summer.
The Canadiens dealt him to Edmonton on Dec. 28, 2015, and the gritty winger found a home with the Oilers while also getting himself right off the ice.
In addition to making his mark with the Oilers between the boards, he married his wife Cassandra in July 2018 and they welcomed their daughter Ellery to the world this past March.
"The longer you're in the league, you appreciate every day, every game, because you realize you play with a lot of people that come and go," he said. "It's a privilege to play in this league and the longer you stay here, you start to realize that those little things do matter. With the stuff I went through, I wasn't sure I was ever going to be back in the NHL."
Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Kassian goes five-hole on the break
Kassian said his favourite moments of his NHL career thus far are all from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Oilers came within a win of advance to the Western Conference Final. He scored twice in the team's first three playoff games vs. San Jose and added another in the second round vs. Anaheim, while also establishing his physical presence throughout the month-long journey.
"The playoff run in Edmonton stands out the most," he said. "That was a pretty cool experience the way the city embraced the playoffs and the way the energy was in the building. Those two series were just a blur of fun. That was the most fun I've had playing hockey."
Some honorable mentions from his first 500 games went to the more standard milestone moments - his first NHL game on Nov. 25, 2011 in Columbus and his first NHL goal at home in Buffalo against Washington the following night.
"I didn't even think, to be honest, I was so in awe," Kassian laughed, describing his memories from that debut weekend. "I couldn't believe I was actually playing in the NHL. It was a pretty surreal moment."