Now, the 24-year-old native of Battleford, Sask., is playing for the club he’s long idolized. Edmonton claimed Cave off waivers from the Boston Bruins earlier this week.
"I grew up watching the Oilers, so it’s special for me," the six-foot-one centre said on Wednesday, ahead of his first game with the team against the Vancouver Canucks.
"It’s definitely cool coming to an organization like this, the history, all the cups, the winning teams … It’s a good opportunity and I’m excited for it."
Battleford is a four-hour drive from Edmonton, so many people make the trek to go watch the NHL live, Cave said, adding that his first game was a tilt between Edmonton and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Growing up, Cave’s favourite player was Ryan Smyth.
Oilers regalia hung on the walls of his room and a blanket with the logo was draped across his bed.
"The Oilers go back a long way in my house," he said.
Formerly of the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos, Cave went undrafted in 2014.
The next year he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins. He’s since logged 239 games with the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Providence Bruins, tallying 115 points.
Boston called him up after Patrice Bergeron suffered a rib injury in late November and Cave slotted in alongside Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. He put up five points in 20 games with the Bruins, including his first NHL goal in a contest with Montreal last month.
Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock said he hasn’t seen much of Cave on the ice, but has heard lots of positive reports.
"He’s just a solid player. He’s a guy that’s going to help us depth wise, he’s a guy that can play in that bottom-six role," Hitchcock said.
"We’ve got to make him part of the team right away. He’s got to feel the energy in the locker-room."
Cave will fill the centre spot on a line with wingers Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi — a position that’s seen a carousel of characters since the Oilers traded Ryan Strome to the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner in mid November.
"We’ve had a hole and we need it filled. We’ve tried everybody we can in there," Hitchcock said.
With Cave in the lineup, Khaira can now move from centre to the left-wing, where he’s a more effective player, the coach feels.
Khaira played junior hockey with Cave back in 2013 when they both donned the maple leaf in the Canada-Russia series.
"He’s quick, he’s a smart player and he has a great shot," Khaira said. "So I think he has a lot of attributes and I think we could work well together."
Cave’s looking forward to clicking with his new teammates and doing his part to add some offence to an Oilers team that’s consistently searching for secondary scoring.
"Hopefully we can build some chemistry right away and get some goals for us," he said, adding that he wants to win faceoffs, be strong defensively and generate offence for the club.
The opportunity to play with some of the biggest talents in hockey today just adds to the excitement, Cave said.
"You go up and down this lineup, I don’t think it matters who you play with, you’re going to have success no matter where you’re plugged in," he said. "It’s one of those things where I’m just going to try to do what I do best."