Firstly I think we have to ask whether these three players are truly ready for the big show. While I have strong feelings about Cogliano being ready for the bigs, at least in a small role, and think it's reasonable to try out Nilsson, it seems like there could be ulterior motives for Gagner making the team.
Now I have been regularly singing Gagner's praises. I loved his fight in his first World Junior tryout, and obviously he had a fantastic Super Series. Gagner however only had a mediocre World Junior tournament, and it's obvious he matured significantly in that 8 month gap, both physically and mentally. The question to me is whether he has matured enough from dominating mediocre 20 year old Russian players to be good enough to be a good player in the NHL (let alone an impact player). I didn't get to see him when the Oilers came to the 'Dome, but I know his preseason numbers weren't overwhelming.
So was the motivation to put Gagner in because he is ready for the NHL (or close) or was the motivation to put Gagner in the lineup because management is hoping he is ready for the NHL? Kevin Lowe is still trying to desperately keep his head above water and having his 07 1st rounder arrive to the big show early would be great 'proof' he's doing his job well.
Adding fuel to the fire, a 'typical' MacT guy, Patrick Thoresen, has been a victim of this training camp competition and has been put on waivers to be sent down to the AHL. It's a move that forces idle observers like me to at least raise the question.
Now Gagner, as well as Nilsson and Cogliano, have 9 games to prove they belong on this club.
I think Bob McKenzie explained it best:
Now it's up to Gagner to prove what he can do against NHL talent in NHL regular-season games. The Oilers will evaluate him over the course of nine games played – by him, not the team – and decide before his 10th game whether they want to burn the first year of his contract or return him to junior and have the contract kick in next season. Even if Gagner plays 10 or more games, it does not count towards a year of pro service for the purpose of determining free agency down the road unless he plays in 41 games, or a half season.
So the Oilers have plenty of time - before his 10th game and again before his 41st game – to make a call on where he's best to play this season, both from a development and business point of view. (Source)
Of course sending Smid out just emphasizes what a complete joke last fall was when they played him with Staios on the second pairing rather then paying a little bit of money for a veteran Dman and letting Laddy get his feet wet on the third pair or playing big minutes in the AHL. The kid is likely going to be a good Dman but the handling of his situation has been a farce since day one. (Source)
Could Smid's early callup been a result of Lowe trying to prove his return for Pronger was decent?
Obviously there's a huge potential I'm way off on this, but I still feel these are questions worth asking. In 9 games we'll have an idea of the answer.