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New Oilers forward Savoie says speed, hockey smarts his primary calling cards

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Matthew Savoie had a smile on his face the entire time talking to media on Monday.

Because, pinch him, he's now a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

The 20-year-old forward acquired by the National Hockey League team on Friday is from St. Albert and grew up playing hockey in the Edmonton area. Monday at Rogers Place was his first foray into a scrum with reporters officially wearing blue and orange.

He cheered for his new team growing up and, on the sly after wrapping up his junior team's run to the Memorial Cup, last month during the Oilers' Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"(I was) hanging out with some friends and watching the games and kind of cheered for the Oilers in secret, but now I can openly be with them," said Savoie, who scored a point a game for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the playoffs this spring — and averaged more than two points a game for this year's WHL champs in 23 regular-season games played — to cap a camaign split between the pros and junior.

"It was awesome just to watch the run they went on and the success they had in the playoffs."

The Oilers acquired Savoie, a five-foot-nine, 179-pound right shot, on Friday from the Buffalo Sabres, sending centre Ryan McLeod and prospect forward Ty Tullio east in exchange.

Buffalo's 2022 ninth overall NHL Draft pick and younger brother of former Oilers prospect Carter Savoie said his 2023-24 campaign, split between four teams — the NHL Sabres, the AHL Rochester Americans and the WHL's Warriors and Wenatchee Wild — with time sidelined at the start of the season with a shoulder injury, was one in which he felt he made good progress.

"I thought even when I was not skating with the team ... I was able to make big strides, in the gym, just working on little things I needed to fine-tune, and just getting those first taste of pro was big for what I need to work on this summer," he told reporters in the Oilers' Hall of Fame room at Rogers Place.

"I think that's just continuing to round out my game, continuing to get faster and stronger, and really to be able to play at that high pace for a full shift and full games."

When asked about his shoulders – Savoie has a history of shoulder injuries, including being knocked out of the WHL Eastern Conference final against the Edmonton Oil Kings while starring for the Winnipeg Ice a month before he was drafted – he said they are "all good."

Savoie, who lined up at all three forward positions this past season, says speed and a high hockey IQ are his biggest assets.

"I like to play really fast. I think the game at a high level as well," he said.

"I'm looking for the best opportunity to put the puck in the net while being reliable on the defensive side as well."

And while training camp is still more than two months away and the Oilers may make more roster moves before mid-September, players on salary cap-friendly entry-level contracts such as Savoie's could be called on to play NHL minutes.

Still, he said he needs to work on his game.

"I think I'm capable of playing at that level right now, but you want to do what's best for your development as well and play lots," Savoie said.

"Wherever I'm playing next year, I'm going to be working really hard and just trying to get better."