EdmontonOilers.com is checking in with Oilers players and prospects in our Roster Reboot series as they discuss their summer activities and gear up for the 2019-20 season.
EDMONTON, AB - In a summer where Sam Gagner has focused on "being a dad" off the ice, the crafty playmaker has been working hard to make strides on it.
The 29-year-old has primarily used this off-season to further his skating to keep up with today's NHL.
"You see how fast the league is getting," said Gagner before his appearance at Oilers Hockey School in St. Albert on Monday. "You just want to continue to try and work on your speed and work on your pace. That's something I've tried to do all summer.
"I'm looking forward to getting started and getting to camp. It's felt like a long off-season. With the way my season went last year, only playing about 30 games in the NHL, I'm excited for the opportunity to come in and compete."
And compete, he will.
Video: RAW | Sam Gagner at Hockey School
It's a trait Edmonton fans have become accustomed to when it comes to Gagner's game - they've seen it first hand in two different stints with the club now.
One of Gagner's strengths is also his versatility. Whether he's centering his own line or slotted in as a winger, the London, ON native can not only be effective in all three forward positions but anywhere he's placed in the lineup.
The Oilers saw that first-hand in 2018-19 when the forward put up five goals and five assists in 25 games after being re-acquired on Feb 16, becoming a mainstay in the team's top nine to finish the campaign.
"You learn every day you have to prove yourself in this league," said Gagner. "It doesn't matter if you feel like you're a mainstay, you have to make sure you come prepared and come ready to earn your job again.
"That's kind of my mindset but at the same time, I think when you can be comfortable and have some familiarity, it definitely helps."
Enter his teammates and new Head Coach Dave Tippett.
Back in '14-15, Sam Gagner was involved in a three-team trade that saw Edmonton ship out the former 2007 sixth-overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes. Gagner would suit up in 81 games as a 'Yote, finding offensive success in his lone season under Tippett.
"I've always been a guy who is more successful the more I have the puck but I think I made a lot of strides that year in terms of my defensive game, my play away from the puck and doing what I can to get the puck back," said Gagner. "He's done a really good job taking the rosters he's had and maximizing the talent of the roster.
"I think we're in a different situation in Edmonton than we were in Arizona. We have some high-end talent on our team. In terms of offensive success, I think he's going to let the top guys do their thing offensively and also cut down on our goals against and help out the goaltenders that way. It's going to help us go a long way. I'm excited to see how everything goes."
Video: EDM@OTT: Gagner buries Rattie's feed
Tippett won't have a shortage of forwards to use at his disposal come training camp either.
Oilers General Manager & President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland has signed five players this off-season that have the ability to compete for a roster spot in the bottom six (Josh Archibald, Gaëtan Haas, Tomas Jurco, Markus Granlund and Joakim Nygard), all of whom join a crop of young talent looking to prove they're ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Gagner, who enters the '19-20 campaign with one-year remaining on his contract, feels the competition for ice time will be good for the club come September.
"That's how you get better," said Gagner. "I think internal competition is a great thing. Every day should be a competition for jobs, competition to try and move up the lineup. As long as it's healthy, that's how your team has success. We've added a lot of pieces.
"I'm excited about it."