No player has been hotter than Sam Gagner in the past several games. An 8 point night certainly pads the stats a bit lately but what we're seeing here is perhaps something of a preview to things to come from Gagner. This profile will take a look at his past, his present and his outlook as a NHL player.
He joined the Sioux City Musketeers after forgoeing his verbal agreement to join the University of Wisconsin in 2005-2006. He did a good job for his first year and managed to make 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 56 games with the Musketeers. Then, he was drafted in the fourth round in the OHL priority draft by the London (Ont.) Knights and got to play with the likes of Patrick Kane and Sergei Kostitsyn during that year. While playing, Kane, Kostitsyn and Gagner had a redonkulous year with at least 100 points each. Gagner had 118 points (35 goals, 85 assists) and the results of that single season catapulted his draft status when he entered the NHL Draft in 2007. He was garnering quite a bit of praise as much as fellow draftees Logan Couture and Jakub Voracek. Finally he was selected in the 6th overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers and was thrusted into high expectations for a storied franchise.
More about Gagner's present and outlook after the jump...
Gagner's expectations were quite high thanks to his high draft pick. The team needed help at the time so they immediately had him play in the NHL. During his rookie season, he had 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists) and was selected in the NHL YoungStars game as a part of All-Star weekend. As great as his scoring was in his rookie season, what was lost in the hubub was an atrocious -21 rating. He naturally struggled to adapt to protecting his own zone but things got better for him the next two season when he had a -1 rating in 2008-09 and -8 in 2009-10 seasons and 41 points in each of those seasons. Just as it seemed that he was going to continue to improve, things got alittle worse in the 2010-11 season with 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) and bad -17 rating. However, things are looking up and up for the still young center as he is only 13 points away from his career best 49 points in his rookie campaign. He is doing better than he has done in the past in his +2 rating and it seems he's starting to find his own groove.
Despite being in the NHL for almost 5 seasons, it's hard to imagine that he's only 22 years old. His future still looks bright for him and you have to credit the Oilers for being very patient with him through his ups and downs. For fantasy owners, you need to remember that he is first and foremost a playmaker. He has excellent vision and is capable of making some the best plays out there but that also means he's going to shoot less and therefore score less goals, but you wouldn't know that looking at his recent play. That being said, if he's available in your league, there's no reason he should be sitting there. He should be sitting in YOUR bench at the very least and perhaps be playing in your Util slot if you have one. If you own him, some are saying he is an obvious sell high and I would say I agree with it just by looking at the rate he is scoring goals. What is not a fluke is the amount of assists he is dishing and he is also getting plenty of power play time. All in all, there's no reason to not ride him out as long as he's doing what he's doing best, getting plenty of opportunities to do it and that his youth is playing in his favor. If the Oilers can be patient with him for close to five years, why not try to be patient with Gagner?
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