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 - A busy season with the Oilers for forward Zack Kassian quickly evolved into a busy summer in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario on the southern border between the United States and Canada.
It started, this past June, by taking a ride - a ride he's taken six years in a row as part of the Bob Probert Ride in support of cardiac services and equipment in the Windsor area.
But the 2019 edition of the ride named for the late Detroit Red Wings tough guy would be a bit more special for the 28-year-old after being named a ride captain and one of the leaders of the pack.
"That was a fun event," Kassian, speaking with EdmontonOilers.com, said. "I've been a part of it for the past five or six years, but to be named captain puts a whole new perspective on it. The work behind the scenes that the Probert's do to put on a great event, not only for a fun day but the money they raised over the last nine years, over [$1 million], is pretty amazing. To finally get to captain a ride with over 1,500 bikes, that was pretty cool and is something I'll remember."
The focus then shifted back to his regular off-season repertoire that also evolved this time around with some added benefit locally from a connection to the National Football League.
"There's actually a new gym that opened up that my buddy that plays in the NFL, [Oakland Raiders tight end] Luke Willson, opened up. It's new in Windsor this year, so this is the first summer for me training there."
The right-winger set a new career high in goals with 15 during the 2018-19 NHL season after being regularly deployed on the wing of Oilers captain Connor McDavid with Leon Draisaitl on his opposite flank.
"It was definitely fun playing with those guys," Kassian said. "I feel as a player, I can play up and down the lineup and I think I proved that last year to give us more offensive opportunities. As a player, every year I've spent in the league, I realize more and more that it's what you do on a day-to-day basis."
But Kassian isn't resting on his laurels, as he further expands his summer work and stick skills by accepting a new on-ice training regimen backed by the Oilers captain.
"I haven't changed too much of my training aspect - the only thing that I have changed is there's a new skill-based on-ice training that Connor invested in. It's called PEP Hockey," he said. "This is my first summer utilizing it on the ice and I find that it's helped a lot so far."
Video: AUDIO | Zack Kassian Interview 07.23.19
Another added boost for Kassian this off-season comes in the changes made around the Oilers organization since the hiring of President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland, including a new head coach in Dave Tippett and an extended list of signings and trades like forward James Neal that will add to the competitiveness of training camp.
"To have Ken - I don't know him personally but from the outside looking in - for the Oilers, it looks like it's going to be very promising," Kassian said. "He's a well-respected guy around the league and knows what he's doing, and Edmonton should be excited.
"Edmonton has signed some guys that are definitely going to help up and down the lineup. That's what we need. We have the superstars. We need everyday NHLers to come in every day to compete for jobs. That's what we've been trying to accomplish. I feel in the summer, with the signings we've done, and speaking to a couple of guys, everyone's real excited to come in."
A busy summer individually and for the Oilers this off-season has Kassian motivated to further solidify his role as a versatile forward who can chip in offensively when the new season commences after players and staff alike report for training camp in September.
"It keeps you on your toes. You have come in ready."