The position of center for Edmonton features a ridiculous teenager, an early 20s enigma, two old goats and several plough horses. This isn’t your Daddy’s Oilers at center.


  1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: After an exceptional rookie season, the Nuge will get more attention from the opposition in 12-13. Coach Krueger has already identified Jordan Eberle as a ‘pairing’ and it probably makes sense to have Taylor Hall on the other wing. That’s a ‘feature’ role by any measure.
  2. Sam Gagner: Oiler fans are often divided on players deep into their career, and Sam Gagner is this generation’s Poti. A solid young player with terrific playmaking skills, he is not 6.05 and does not run over people. Coach Krueger suggested Ales Hemsky as the partner for Samwise, leaving Yakupov or Smyth as the likely third on the line.
  3. Shawn Horcoff: Speaking of a divided fanbase, Horcoff fits the description too. Another season of tough zone starts and heavy lifting awaits #10, although with advanced age we should expect fewer points and less success in such a difficult role.
  4. Eric Belanger: Free agents often perform better in year two, so the Oilers might have a stronger depth chart by standing pat (which they have done). Belanger is a good faceoff man, can PK and should be good for 10 goals in a 3-4C role Jon Willis (in the article linked to above) suggested an interesting idea–having Belanger AND Horcoff on the checking line. Interesting.


  1. Mark Arcobello: A strong AHL season should have him knocking at the NHL door, but his weakness is size and the Oilers are looking to add size at center. He led the Barons at even strength scoring (14-22-36). A little surprising he didn’t get a cup of coffee in the NHL based on performance.
  2. Anton Lander: Tough season for the young Swede but the organization believes in him and Lander is extremely likely to joing Nuge and Gags as NHL centermen when this thing turns around. A good chance he’ll spend time in OKC in 12-13 even if the teams play 82 games in the NHL, but we shouldn’t discount the Oilers management group and their opinion of this player.
  3. Chris VandeVelde: We have to look beyond (a lack of) offense in order to see what the Oilers value in him. VV’s even strength totals (68, 5-13-18) were the worst among regular centers on the team. Having said that, coach Nelson relied on him and there is still a small window (Lander looks unready) of opportunity. I think he slightly improved his NHL chances this season. A a big center (6.02, 205) who can check and PK, his 6 post-season goals were a nice bonus.
  4. Antti Tyrvainein: Interesting player, often plays wing. Coach Nelson: “From the start of the season, we knew he (Tyrvainen) had the skills. He plays an abrasive style. He’s playing with confidence now and has good chemistry with his linemates (Lander and House).”  Has one more year left on his contract, there is some urgency. He did have a nice stretch in late March/early April (this is the period Nelson refers to above) in which he went 7, 3-4-7 +7.
  5. Tanner House: College man like VandeVelde, seems to be a better offensive player but the organization likes VandeVelde better. House went 68, 8-12-20 at even strength this past season, and also played some wing. I would guess that he would have to show a tremendous amount this season in order to earn another contract.
  6. Ryan Martindale: A very poor first year pro, but I think you could also make a case that the organization didn’t handle him very well. Martindale did show well at rookie camp and early in main camp one year ago, and it’s always a good idea to give him a full season–at whatever level–in the role he’s suited to play: skill forward.


  • Josh Green: A fine C with size and grit, Green will no doubt pivot the #1 line with the Barons. Played some with the big club in 11-12, will need to have his contract purchased this season (1-way, AHL only deal) if he is to play with the Oilers in 12-13. 


  • Travis Ewanyk: Tough as nails centermen missed most of the season in 11-12 to injury, but did play in the post-season and will be healthy to start 12-13. Oilers are likely to sign him in the spring, as their depth at C doesn’t suggest a wealth of options.


The Oilers have already shown us the future at center in Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Anton Lander. Beyond that, they boast two NHL veterans on the back 9, a couple of interesting prospects in the AHL and a long shot in Ewanyk. There’s some work to do, but the big items are covered.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be the face of the Oilers at center for a long, long time. He’s a helluva building block, and that’s for sure.

  • Sweet Petunia that’s a short list of CHL Prospects and Minor Leaguers worth mentioning!

    Who still wants to trade Gagner?

    The Oilers have NOBODY in the system that looks like a possible 2C who isnt already playing in the NHL.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    If they bring him along correctly, Ryan Martindale should turn out to be an OUTSTANDING #2 Centre. I saw him play for the Ottawa 67’s on numerous occasions. It was no coincidence that his line was the best in the OHL. He has a wonderful skill level and great size. If he has the DRIVE he will succeed. The only question for Martindale has always been drive and consistency. If he can learn to “bring it” on a nightly basis, he will blossom into a fantastic NHL player.

    • billylikestodrinksoda

      Well apparently his idea of “bringing it” and “DRIVE” is 6-9-15 and -13 in 34 games in the ECHL, so I recommend looking elsewhere for your 2nd line centre

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Hey there,who is your insider,and how do you know that MPS has been developing what until last year was an unknown knack for winning faceoffs in practice against our centers?

      Come on now who needs a big solid fast smart defensive centerman with a heavy wrister??And a knack for winning faceoffs??Ever see the early Ultimate fighter shows ,there was a guy named Rashad Evans,big strong fast and scared as crap,but he evolved or rather as he probably saw it survived and excelled,thats how I see MPS,he needs to think survival out there and what better spot to do that in than center??Put Horcs on the wing he can cut it,let him unload that one-timer,I heard he has been working on those lazy hips??He might regain that touch if he can twist er a little more.Mps driveing the middle forceing the d-men to collapse on his big body as he slips it over to Horcoff at the top of the circle for a blistering one-timer!!!Yes i can see it.

  • If Winnipeg are sellers at the deadline, peraps antripov can be acquired. He’s at the end of his deal and becomes a ufa next year. Plus with winnipeg getting Jokenin they have a wealth at center. Antripov has size, experience, and is capable of having big point years when playing with the right players. 2 year deal at less money than he gets now as a good stop gap while Lander continues to develop into the 2 way center we all hope he can be.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Back to back to back first overalls must comfirm, that’s a dogs breakfast as far as centers go in this organization. One keeper from my vantage point.

    Since reality seems to be lacking with many here in regards to that center position….i hear that Bain character from DNR knows his way around a rink. He could certainly take Gagners lunch money.

    Hopkins, Bain, Horcoff, Tyrvainein would be a more effective top 4.

  • RexLibris

    This is why I (and Mr. Stauffer, as it would appear) are on board for the Oilers to position themselves to draft Curtis Lazar this coming June.

    I think the Oilers could if a few things happen: 1.) a season (call be crazy, it might still happen). b.) the Oilers draft somewhere between 6th and 12th. c.) a trade up from whatever draft position (if necessary) that might include one or both of their 2013 2nd round picks.

    If any team could take fewer prospects in order to move up significantly at the draft next year, it is the Oilers. And Curtis Lazar would probably be the kind of 2nd line center of which most Oiler fans would approve.

    That being said, I remember hearing one of the 1260 guys on the night show (Corey Graham, perhaps?) a few months back say “why not Paajarvi at center?”. He is big, skates well, has some good playmaking abilities, and has the defensive awareness most coaches look for in the position.

    Just wondering.

    • Rex, it would appear we are completely on the same wave length here, we have thrown this idea around a couple times.

      This just makes all kinds of sense. The Oilers are clearly not done rebuilding and I too agree with Stauffer when he also says organically grow and draft our talent.

      I’m still convinced the Oilers are a lottery team,and if not in the lottery then 6-8 for sure, and this is not really a bad thing! therefore the Oilers have a legitimate shot at an elite center once again and much better options going forward.

      After seeing Monahan play in the summit series I really like this player, I am really pumped at seeing Lazar and Shinkaruk play this year @ RX1.

      I’m excited to see Barkov play @ the WJC too, this kid might be the center the Oilers could only wish for!

  • The center position has long been a worry of mine about this organization and this team. The team is expecting career years from both Gagner and RNH to ensure the future is solid down the middle. I think, like many others RNH will be a stud in his NHL career, but to expect a massive jump in points ( I think 55 – 60 is reasonable if he plays a full 82) from him and Gagner (who has never broken the 50pt threshold although he has been injury bitten certain years) will be a lot to expect. Lets remember this, on a PPG basis, Gagner has stagnated almost completely and was scoring less per game last season than he was the two previous years. The organization has given him another show me contract and I hope along with others it is a career year. My problems with samwise has always been his lack of footspeed and his lack of physical play (due mostly to size). I think he will have a good NHL career, but the Oilers should be very careful in betting that he is this teams future number 2 behind the Nuge. Every cup contending team seems to have a deadly 1 – 2 center combo. Think Kesler Sedin, Richards – Kopitar, Bergeron – Seguin – Krejci. My point is that this organization is not nearly as strong as it should be down the middle. The team has a plethora of defensive prospects that only got richer with the adding of NHL ready (or looks ready) Justin Shultz. The list above shows a lot of uncertainty and a big bet on two players. One of which I am clearly not sold on and none of which looks to physically be able to play against players like Backes, Kopitars, Benn’s or Thortons that can dominate a game with their skill and their size.

    Screw the selling of the bank for a number 1 d man, get me an established 2 way center who can score 50 – 60 pts and has the physical ability and wheels to play against the best in the league. I just don’t see Sam or Anton being that guy, sorry

    • This is what it all means Lowetide: Realistically, until the Oilers’ major deficiency at centre is properly addressed, which won’t be easy for the organization, the rebuild is not pointed in the right direction. Tambellini/Lowe have created this critical problem.

      Relying on Gagner as the No. 2 centre is a dangerous risk. The Oilers’ brass cannot count on either old and fading veterans Horcoff and Belanger to carry the load at 3rd and 4th line centre either. And not much hope in the system to rely on.

      With so many untradeable players under contract, Tambellini doesn’t have much flexibility to fix this serious problem and others.

      As an Oiler fan, sorry to say predictions for the team to place 13th in the West this season appear optimistic. Even another 29th place finish won’t guarantee another centre like Nuge.

  • bazmagoo

    Personally I believe it will be combos of RNH, Ebs and Yak on one scoring line. Hallsy, Gags and Hemmer on the other. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3rd line of Horc, Smitty, and Belanger carrying the mail taking on the so called tougher minutes to start the season. Some combination of Petrell, Eager, Jones, and Hordichuck makes up the chuckers on the 4th line. Still need another d-man though….

    Damn I’m excited to see what the Oilers will bring this season! Hopefully we have hockey in October.

    • gr8one

      I was going to say this.

      He’d be perfect…A good ol’ prarie boy whose brother plays in the CFL…hmmm, maybe Tambo should get on the phone with the Esk’s and convince them to acquire Chris!!

  • bazmagoo

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard not to understand that we need an upgrade in the C2 position.

    89 did not score a goal until the month of December last year. Seriously.

    His 8 point game was amazing, can’t deny that. Also can’t deny that his 7 points over the last 23 games of the season would be considered productive.

    I was actually happy when we drafted him but I have soured on him the last few years. He has regressed since his rookie year and he doesn’t make a difference as much as a 2C should IMO.

    I hope this one year contract is a sign we are looking to actually upgrade on him, but tambo is prob playing solitaire and happy with 30,30,29.

    • Funny how Gagner’s underlying numbers have progressed nicely despite all that “regression”.

      Sam Gagner on a “normal” team would have been held back a year and brought along with solid support players. He’d be hitting for 60 or so a year by now and everybody would be praising our feisty 2C.

      Edmonton Oilers. Where if you’re not knocking the lights out by your third season you’re trade bait. Because of course we’re SOOOOOO damn good.

      Just for funsies, you might want to check out the Sedins’ numbers the first few years in the league. Daniel averaged 38 points the first four years with the Canucks. Note that they had a far better supporting cast and a team that actually thought winning was important.

    • Look for Gagner to have a career year. He will finally have talent to play with. Partnering with 2 of Hall, Yakupov, or a healthy Hemsky should give him more space and some viable options to pass to. Everyone looks at his rookie year and says his points have stagnated.

      He played 1st line and 1st pp minutes for over 1/2 of the year. If you remember it was after Hemsky and Horcoff were hurt that year and he was moved to 1c that we had a phenominal run and just about made the playoffs. He does not drive the play as much as I would like, but he is certainly a talented player that plays his best when playing with other skilled players.

      I agree we need to look at centre, but more because we are thin at 3 and 4 and they are aging players. I don’t like any of the C prospects. I would love to see a trade of a winger or D prospect to bring in another young talented centre (preferably with size)

  • The Soup Fascist

    I agree with Smokey. Not sure why the insistance to change Pitlick to the wing. When he was drafted he was projected as a center. Should have been the big 2 way centre everyone apparently covets.

    Ewanyk had a wasted year due to injury. If he plays in the NHL it will be as a 3/4 line PK / Faceoff / energy guy. Character kid. Likely captain of Oil Kings this year, but not a scorer at any level. Good news is his coach sees him as a better pro than junior. Question is which level of pro.

    I agree with others that if oil pick mid first Lazar is a special player. Not tall but thick and a little mean. Kid competes. Barring injury will be dominant in his draft year.

    • RexLibris

      The advantage in the Oilers favour for shopping for a center is this is their year. The Oilers aren’t drafting 1st overall again. The lottery gods won’t stand for it if they finish in the bottom five and if the season is cancelled they have as much chance as Boston or Detroit on account of their previous 1st overall picks.

      That being said, they could go to a team drafting in whatever position MacGregor expects Lazar, or Reinhart for that matter, to be available, and pitch a very nice offer. By my count they could part with any one of or a combination of the following: their 1st, 2nd, Ducks 2nd, Hamilton, Musil. If the team selling is only dropping down perhaps five spots in the draft (6th to 10th?), then the Oilers certainly have enough currency to manage, and there are enough center options available this year that they could target multiple players as contingency plans.

      And I don’t think the Oilers need a tall center. A bull in a china shop kind of player is just fine with me too.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Regarding height being a need for a center I agree. I was just pointing that out because folks will see Lazar at 5’11 or 6′ and figure we need a 6’3″ center, not realizing he is almost 200 lbs at 17 years old.

        Your description of bull in a china shop is accurate. While he is not a banger per se, watch how hard this kid is to knock off the puck and his willingness to go to tough places.

        There are some good centers and D-men available this year. I would be shocked if a winger was the Oils first pick.

        PS – you must mean someone other than Reinhart, he is property of the – ugh – Islanders organization. Seth Jones, maybe? He will be top 2 IMO.

        • RexLibris

          Sorry, I meant Sam Reinhart, but I think he is 2014 eligible. I’m getting ahead of myself.

          I think this year’s center “crop” includes MacKinnon, Lazar, Domi, and Monahan. Throw in Shinkaruk, Jones, Barkov and Rychel as well as a few late risers and draft surprises and it is not without possibility that the Oilers walk out of day one with their future 2nd line center.

          Stauffer seems to think that Lazar could be a player who goes straight from junior to the NHL. Not sure about that, his learning curve these past few years coming from the bantam draft to the Oil Kings has been meteoric. Another huge surge in responsibilities and expectations may be out of the realm of reasonable expectations (as we are so fond of saying here).

          Anyone who argues that Lazar “isn’t big enough” by looking at his height is just intersted in the superficial stats and likely hasn’t seen him play. He height isn’t an issue. His weight and low center of gravity (even on skates), means that he can push aside even some of the bigger defencemen in the WHL.

          I paid close attention to him last season at the Oil Kings games because I was praying that the Oilers would be able to draft Samuelsson. As much as I wanted Samuelsson and loved his game, I have to admit that Lazar was the offensive catalyst for much of that line.

          My one non-Oilers hope for this year is that Feaster is convinced to trade away their 1st round pick. That would make things pretty “entertaining”.

          • The Soup Fascist

            You bet. Sam Reinhart was a (very good) 16 year old (in terms of NHL eligibility – technically late ’95 birth) last year. He is, in fact, 2014 eligible. That is why I never made the connection. Thanks for clearing that up.

            I watched a fair bit of Lazar last year, the kid has the “it” factor. IF the Oilers draft him (or one of the other centers you mentioned) I don’t see the benefit of playing as an 18 year old center in the NHL – for a couple of reasons. 1) He won’t be a top 3 pick, IMO so there is not the pressure to play like there was for #1 Overalls: Hall, Nuge and Yak. 2) The Oilers are much deeper up front than they were when Hall and Nuge were just flat out better than the 1st line LW and C, respectively at the time.

            I think the Oilers could have gotten Samuelsson with 32 last year, except for the fact he was the Oil Kings best player at the Mem Cup. He really f***ed us up by playing so well. LOL.

  • Is the unacceptable state of center , defence and possibly goaltending not a good reason to inject more youth into the lineup ? I believe we would be better served with youth developing in the lineup and assess them over the year . Zharkov , Martindale , Marincin , Klefbom , Musil etc. have size and physicallity to perhaps work into the future . Live with some of them now rather than live with what we have that still are unlikely to change our fate in a forward position .Inject youth while they are hungry and developing on a level comensurrate with NHL level play . What have we got to lose here by doing it another bottom lottery position , when playoffs appear tom be remote at best with incumbent veterans ?

    You learn and develop faster on the job than going to school in minor leagues ! Hall and Hopkins did just that . How many kids sent to minors don’t develop the way expected they would ? Some it destroys . Hartekainen probably should remain here in Edmonton . Some bubble veterans could and maybe should be relegated to lesser roles, etc., and let the youth take over . I don’t see a downside to using more youth developing on the job when your only 29-30 position over the last 3 years to be honest .

    • On the contrary. Our team should be one where you have to earn your spot rather than have it given to you. A young guy wants to be part of the best league in the world? He busts his gut and gets good enough to earn the spot. THAT’S how you build a winning team.

      Otherwise you’re teaching a bunch of players to lose. We’ve already got an unbalanced lineup and adding the kids you’re speakimg about would have us picking #1 for the next five years. At some point “winning” has to become popular again in Edmonton.

      I know it’s hard to believe here, but the NHL is NOT a development league.