When you have a hockey player who is also an author, it’s pretty easy to go for the good old “he’s starting a new chapter of his career” line.
But it fits perfectly for winger Zach Hyman, who will make his Edmonton Oilers regular-season debut Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place.
Hyman, 29, signed with the Oilers as a free agent in July after spending the first six seasons of his pro career in his home city of Toronto.
It’s hoped Hyman will be what the Oilers have long been searching for in their top six, whether he plays with Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl.
“I’m really comfortable playing with everybody, really. Last year in Toronto, I bounced around on almost every line. It’s just going out there and bringing the same level of competitiveness, intensity and work ethic to any line that I’m on,” explained Hyman.
Hyman’s point production has always been solid, including 33 in 43 games last season. But it’s his dogged determination that has earned him the respect of teammates and opponents.
“As a parent now of hockey players, he’s the epitome of what you want from your kids. I tell my oldest son, ‘You have to watch Zach Hyman play.’ Not everyone can play like Connor. It’s fine watching him play, but you’re not going to be Connor McDavid,” said Oilers goaltender Mike Smith.
“The relentlessness out there. The work ethic. He pulls everyone in the battle. It’s a contagious thing. I’m sure happy to have him. There was a span last year when we played three games (against the Maple Leafs) that he did a lot of damage to our team.”
“As a kid, there’s always one kid who is hungry and wants the puck. I was always very competitive as a kid and always wanted to win,” recalled Hyman.
“I knew that, for me to make it and to be a professional hockey player, I had to bring that work ethic and competitiveness every day. It’s hard to play against somebody who’s always on you and always on the puck. That’s the player I’ve always been.”
Hyman’s dedication to hockey hasn’t stopped him from excelling at other pursuits.
“Writing is a big passion of mine and always has been since I was a kid in school,” said Hyman. “In Grade 7, I wrote a short story and it won a competition.”
That story stayed with him over the years and eventually became Hockey Hero, a children’s book that was published in 2015. He’s also authored children’s books called The Bambino and Me and The Magician’s Secret.
“The theme is believing in yourself and whatever you believe you can achieve. That’s something that has been a constant in my life,” said Hyman, who added he’s working on a fourth book but doesn’t know when it’ll be done.
The Oilers and Canucks drop the puck at 8 p.m. Wednesday night at Rogers Place. Coverage starts with the Face-off Show at 6 p.m.
Zack Kassian practised with the Oilers for the first time since hitting his head on the ice Thursday against Vancouver. Devin Shore didn’t skate after tweaking something at practice on Monday. Both are day to day.