One of the things that struck me last July when the Edmonton Oilers inked Zach Hyman to a seven-year contract was the sheer outpouring of well wishes and praise from fans and people close to the Toronto Maple Leafs. You know, talk about Hyman being a really good player and an even better guy.
With his first season in Edmonton in the books – one in which the 30-year-old forward from Hogtown produced career highs of 27 goals and 54 points – Hyman hasn’t only lived up to his advanced billing, he’s exceeded every expectation I had on and off the ice. I’m guessing you might feel the same way.
The latest example came in the Big Smoke Monday where Hyman held his annual charity golf tournament in support of the SickKids Foundation in Toronto and Edmonton and the Jewish Federation in Edmonton and Toronto. Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele, Devin Shore and Jack Campbell attended – in other words, about one-third of the Oilers roster took part.
While it would be stretching things to draw a straight line between guys hanging out together during the off-season and winning, it’s my experience teams with leaps beyond the dressing room tends to enjoy success. We saw some of that last season with the Oilers reaching the Western Conference final. Here we are, two days short of a year since Hyman inked his deal, and he’s right in the middle of the mix.
WHAT THEY SAY
Captain Connor comments on the addition of Campbell between the #Oilers pipes, Kane returning to the team, Calgary’s roster shake-up & more from the @ZachHymanGolf tournament in Toronto.@cmcdavid97 | #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/QQgz1W0vWv
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 25, 2022
“He’s been a great addition to our team,” McDavid said. “I’ve gotten to know him personally, training with him throughout the summer. To look around here and see how many people have come out to support him and his event, it’s pretty cool to see.”
“A tournament like this encapsulates who Zach is,” said Nurse, one of 10 Oilers who hails from Ontario. “You see all the teammates he has now, the former teammates and everyone else who wants to support. It just speaks to how good a guy he is and how much he cares about his community.”
On top of everything else, we know Hyman and Campbell are friends as well as former teammates and that their relationship played a significant part in getting Campbell’s signature on a five-year contract and addressing a sizeable void in the crease.
“I just tried to convey my experience as best as possible,” Hyman said. “Just be open and honest with him about how I felt about Edmonton. I think everybody’s situation is different, but for me, like I said, it was the perfect fit.
“He’s an amazing person, a very nice guy. He’s just a great person first and foremost and as a goaltender just somebody who tries to push the envelope and push his abilities as far as he can with his work ethic. I think that will fit really seamlessly into the group we have here.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
I wasn’t sure about Hyman as a player — in terms of if he could live up to his contract — when the Oilers inked him a year ago, but it’s obvious now any doubts were unfounded. He’s a better player than I expected and it’s obvious already he is part of the core of a team trying to grow into Stanley Cup contention.
Those Maple Leafs’ fans lamenting the loss of Hyman a year ago weren’t blowing smoke and that’s nothing but good news for the Oilers’ faithful around here. As advertised.