There were no stop signs on Sam Gagner’s road to the National Hockey League. He played his first game a month or so after turning 18.

But some roads to the NHL are harder than others — more detours more construction work more proceed with caution signs along the way. Like former Toronto Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton’s often-times tortuous health journey to where he was Saturday on Gagner’s left wing with an Edmonton Oilers' split-squad.

Hamilton is 28 years old and has played 12 NHL league games about 400 behind Gagner. He’s a load at six-foot-two and 230 pounds but is still trying to find regular employment.

On Saturday he was showing what he could do with Gagner and Jordan Eberle against a Calgary Flames’ split-squad. It wasn’t a bad place for the left-winger to start.

Hamilton was the Marlies’ captain for Dallas Eakins in the American Hockey League so obviously there is some trust there with the Oilers’ new head coach. It may also have been a reward for time served in the minors.

“His personality and character is second to none” said Eakins. “If I can raise my daughters to have the same character as Ryan Hamilton I’ve done a helluva job. But hockeywise there’s no quit in Ryan. He’s always coming back for more.

“He’s an excellent penalty-killer and he has a great knack around the net. He had 30 goals last year in the American League. That’s not a bad thing”

Hamilton didn’t score in the Oilers’ 3-2 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome but he set up the winner by Martin Marincin with five minutes left. His shot was stopped by Calgary backup goalie Toni Ortio and the defenceman raced in to bury the puck.

Ryan Jones (tip-in of a Jeff Petry power-play shot) and David Perron (25-footer off a nice Taylor Fedun feed) got the other Oilers’ goals. Calgary’s first-round draft forward Emile Poirier (scramble) and Mike Cammalleri (tap-in after Oilers goalie Richard Bachman couldn’t play the puck outside the trapezoid and Matt Stajan beat Philip Larsen to the loose puck) scored for Calgary.

Both of the Flames’ goals were on Bachman with backup goalie Jason LaBarbera pitching a 12-shot shutout over the first 30 minutes.

Hamilton was noticeable most of the night with three shots and two hits.

“He brings some size to the picture … and that’s well-needed as has been determined here” said Eberle.

“He’s a heavy body who provides some tenacious forechecking. He is a presence in front of the net … and he and (fellow Marlie) Will Acton did a nice job on the penalty-kill” said Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson who handled the Oilers’ bench.