Will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be ready to start the season?

Now that Craig MacTavish has re-signed Sam Gagner, traded for David Perron and added some depth on the blueline, the health of Nugent-Hopkins is the biggest concern in Oilersnation.

Yesterday, during an interview with MacTavish on my radio show (we will have the entire interview up later this afternoon), I asked him about RNH’s health. 

Well, we’re hearing that everything is optimistic, but you don’t want to count on him being ready to start the season. The optimistic forecast would be that he could be potentially ready to start the season, but the pessimistic forecast would be that he would be ready November 1st, the end of October. We’ll leave it at that and let the medical staff decide. We’re certainly not going to rush him and hurry him into the lineup, that’s for sure.  

MacTavish’s last comment is the key. The Oilers will wisely not rush Nugent-Hopkins back, but if they realize he isn’t going to be ready what is the back up plan? I asked MacTavish if he’s looking to add a veteran centre? 

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No, I think we’re good there. We’ve got some depth with Arcobello, we’ve got Will Acton. Andrew Miller is a guy who I’m expecting will have a very good training camp as well, until Nuge is ready to play. I mean, injuries are a part of it. You look at any other team’s depth chart; there are always gaps in their depth chart. Sometimes these gaps allow players and opportunity to step in and really establish themselves as NHL players. You need a chance if you’re a young guy on the outside looking in. This could potentially be that chance if Nuge isn’t ready to go October 1st, but I don’t anticipate doing much more. 


If Nugent-Hopkins can’t start the season then Sam Gagner is the #1 centre. Boyd Gordon doesn’t have the offensive capabilities to play on the second line, so that means Mark Arcobello, Andrew Miller and Anton Lander will be battling for the opportunity to play in the top-six.

It would be a great opportunity for them, but it also is a risk by the Oilers.

Lander, 6′, 190 pounds, has the most NHL experience. He’s played 67 games and has 2 goals and 7 points. He was very good for OKC in the playoffs last year scoring 5 goals and 8 points in 8 games.

Arcobello, 5’9, 170, spent the past three seasons in OKC, and last season was his best tallying 22 goals and 68 points in 74 games. He centred Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle for almost a month in OKC last year, and both the wingers told me he’s a very smart player. He had 12 goals and 20 points in 17 playoff games, and he’s likely the best pure offensive centre of the three.

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Andrew Miller, 5’10, 180, was signed as a free agent this summer after playing four years at Yale University. He scored 42 goals and 156 points in 141 ECAC games. This is how MacTavish described Miller.   

Andrew Miller is a lot like Mark Arcobello. He’s actually come out of the same program, they’re both Yale University. Andrew Miller is a strong guy on the puck. He’s a smaller guy, but he’s highly skilled with a real keen intellect to play the game. He scores big goals, he knows where to go, he knows when the opportunity is presenting itself, and he goes to the right positions. He’s going to look really good at camp, I can tell you that. It’s whether he can overcome the exhibition game hurdle. Then the later exhibition games present another hurdle as well as teams pair their roster down and the competition gets a little bet steeper. Then, of course, the ultimate hurdle of playing in a regular season game. We’ll see if he’s ready for that, but he’ll sure look good early.

MacTavish is clearly very high on Miller, and he expects him to play well early on.


If Nugent-Hopkins is ready to go, it means little, but I’d be surprised if he is on the ice October 1st  vs. the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers will not rush him, and Hall told me last year that the extra month rest (he didn’t play in the AHL until November 1st) allowed him to be much stronger and more confident.

It is definitely a risk going with Arcobello, Miller or Lander as your 2nd line centre, but MacTavish wants smart players who can move the puck, and he seems confident that these guys can fill the gap until Nugent-Hopkins returns.

I didn’t think the Oilers would get smaller down the middle, but it is very possible that their opening night roster will have Gagner, Gordon,  and one ofLander/Miller/Arcobello as the 2nd line centre and possibly Wil Acton as the 4th line centre.

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If Nugent-Hopkins was going to be out long term, I’d bet MacTavish would have signed a veteran centre, and it is possible, albeit it slim, that he still does. The Oilers need to uncover a diamond in the rough at some point, and it seems like MacTavish is going to give Lander, Arcobello and Miller an opportunity of a lifetime.

When an opportunity arises it is up to the player to take advantage of it. Players, like most of us in everyday life, just want an opportunity to prove ourselves.

These three have two months to ensure they are in the best shape of their life and mentally ready to take advantage of a wonderful break.

While Landre, Arcobello and Miller prepare for training camp and the preseason, I suspect most Oilers fans will be extremely nervous when they compare the  Oilers C depth chart to the rest of the Pacific division.


Arcobello and Miller both attended Yale so you might want to listen to their fight song to get amped up for the season. Yale hasn’t produced many NHL players, but these four all played over 400 games.

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Bob Kudelski: 1987-1996 with the Kings, Senators and Panthers.
Played 442 games and tallied 139 goals and 241 points.

Bob Brooke: 1983-1990 with Rangers, North Stars and Devils.
He played 447 games and scored 69 goals and 166 points.

Chris Higgins: He’s is still active. He broke in 2005 with the Canadiens then moved to the Rangers, Flames, Panthers and now he’s with the Canucks.
He’s played 523 games and scored 133 goals and 254 points.

Randy Wood: 1986-1997 with Islanders, Sabres, Leafs and Stars.
Played 741 games and scored 175 goals and 334 points.


  • OilersBrass

    While centre positions are a big issue with the Oilers and the fans (like me) right now, I think the storm can be weathered nonetheless for the first month of the season…

    Would I like two to three more very good forwards for the Oilers (two of them centres)????….Damn rights but its not going to happen unless two such players get traded now to make immediate cap space room….Hemsky and N. Schultz or Smid (unfortunately)

    RNH will be back most likely during the 5 to 10 games period into the season, if not the first game. Gagner can and will be the 2nd line centre/backup 1st line guy too…this season. Gordon is an excellent top type 3rd line centre.

    I agree with MacT that for now, he has to see what the system allows him to see/learn… and that is… that Miller, Arcobello, and Lander now have to show up. That means also that new signee W. Acton has to show what he can do as well.

    Lander is gonna be an RFA next season and he has to very much prove he belongs “now” with the Oilers as a 22 yr old (or that he is very close to doing so for long term), and then now so does Arcobello at 24 yrs and Acton at 25 yrs…

    I love the Oilers and want them in the playoffs now but the beginning of the new season is to see what the team has to do with other new trades or signings upcoming, or it’s that the right kids are here all along. There are 82 games to play so there is the next two months and those probabloe 55 games to figure it out before acting drastically or not!!!

    Do Not Forget!!!!…that Eakins is very specific and demanding as a coach to input new systems that will work for the Oiler players he now has and this excites me more than having coaches such as Renney, Quinn, Krueger, these last yrs..

    The Oilers need about 91 to 95 pts to get into the playoffs this coming yr I believe and this should be 40 wins + 8 OT wins + 3 to 7 SOW…

    This was just all In MY Opinion…

    • toprightcorner

      40 wins (80 pts) + 8 OT wins (16 pts) + 3-7 OT wins (6-14pts) = 102 – 110 pts and does not include OT or SO losses. if you say only 2 of each OT and SO losses totalling 4 pts then you are suggesting 106 – 114 pts and a record of 51-27-4 or 55-23-4. Only 4 teams in the last 5 full seasons have had over 51 wins.

      I think you did your math wrong.

  • OilersBrass

    Bring both Arcabello and Lander up. It’s not like we really have fourth line centre anyway. Then, depending on if you want pure skill, or some two way on your second line, switch em till Nuge comes back.

    I’m still holding out hope Mac T has at least one more trade up his sleeve, and if that turns out to be Clifford, then our third line could really take some of the pressure off the top two lines. Not to mention makes a fourth line of Brown, Jones, and Smyth, which to my memory had some great games together down the stretch. That line played havoc with some teams on certain nights.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    JASON GREGOR : My last posting was #39 and the rest beyond that is some one else . Please take appropriate action and remove this person from ON site as it’s becoming a daily a occurrence .

  • A-Mc

    Just going to throw this out there:

    What is better? Arcobello centering the 2nd line with perron/yak or Hall centering the 2nd line with perron/hemsky (yak moves to 1LW)

    KEEPING in mind, its only for a month until nuge returns. I know hall at wing makes the most sense but in times of need id take hall at C before an OKC guy with 0 experience.

  • A-Mc

    AND if arcobello is going to center a line, is he centering hall/ebs or perron/yak?

    I would bet hes the #1C amd centers hall/ebs based off proven chemistry in OKC. Gagner/perron/yak as 2nd line.

    If the chemistry is strong i might do this with arc but i still favour hall centering hemsky/perron.

    • toprightcorner

      Arcobello centered Hall and Ebs when Nuge was out in the AHL last year adn they did well together so I would expect them to play together. I would suggest instead of a #1 line and # 2 line they will be 1A and 1B and the line playing the best that night will get the minutes.

      I still think we will see MacT add someone if Nuge is going to miss a month or more.

      Hall will not play centre. He has stated he would prefer to stay on the wing and he needs to focus on eliminating give aways and holding on to the puck to long instead of trying to figure out a new position.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    ….. In 2015?

    No way oilers domination with Arcobello #1, Gagner #2, Gordan #3, and Lander #4.

    Worst lineup ever.

    I was actually messaging all my flames fans friends earlier today about their centers….

    Backlund/Stajan #1, #2…. Lol worst center combo in the NHL.

    Their reply, we are finishing bottom 5 anyways so why bring in Grabo, or make any moves, give the kids some playing time(knight, horvat, Reinheart)

    I would take stajan in our top 2 instead of Arcobello, which is sad.

    What a joke….

    • DSF

      Are you forgetting that Calgary drafted Sean Monahan and signed Corban Knight?

      Monahan, Stajan, Backlund, Knight, Blair Jones, Markus Granlund and Max Reinhart is a pretty deep group.

      Monahan may or may not be ready for the NHL but he’s close and he’s very good.

      Word is that the Flames are also the front runners to sign Grabovski and, if they do, their centre depth is far superior to the Oilers although Hopkins may be the best of the group.

      • Reg Dunlop

        So, do you really think that RNH, a 1st overall with 76 pts in 102 NHL games is better than Monohan(0 pts), Granlund(0 pts), Reinhart(3 pts), Knight(0 pts), Jones(15 pts)? You oiler fanatic you!

        That flame centre depth is AWESOME

        • DSF

          We have no idea yet what Monaghan will accomplish.

          He was almost a one man band in Ottawa on a terrible team so he’s hard to get a read on but every scouting report I’ve read is glowing.

          Corban Knight put up big numbers in the NCAA but we’ll see if that translates to the NHL.

          Stajan and Backlund are certainly better than Gordon and Lander.

          Do the Oilers have ANYONE in the system who project better than Jones, Granlund and Reinhart? No they don’t.

          If Grabovski signs in Clagary…it’s no contest.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        Power forwards tend to take longer to develop. I don’t think giving Monahan top line minutes on the road against teams like SJ, Van, Ana, La is good for his Development.

        I was poking fun at flames fans who were the first to admit their Centers are a joke. Backlund is always Injured and stajan is the butt end of most flames jokes in the city.

        Than I read this article and realized that our center depth is even worse.

        How sad to end the day with this realization.

        I understand it’s only until nov, but I really hope MacT is bluffing and he’s got a move planned to fix the depth issue.

      • Eddie Shore

        Is this a joke? Only 3 of those centres have even played in the NHL and that’s including Jones who has never played more than 22 games in an individual season. How does 2 NHL centres and 4 prospects qualify as deep at centre?

          • Eddie Shore

            Grabovski hasn’t signed with anyone as far as I’m aware. I think Monahan may have an NHL career but to what extent and how good he will be remains to be seen and until he has played I think its a tad premature to praise him and his value to a team.

          • DSF

            We were talking about “depth”.

            And “depth” always includes prospects.

            If you just want to look at veterans, then the Oilers D depth is dreadful since none of Nurse, Marincin, Klefbom, Musil, Gernat, Musil or Simpson has played an NHL game.

            Anyone with a clue, however, would look at those prospects and think the Oilers have pretty good “depth” on D.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I honestly believe with Grabovski the Oilers are a playoff contending team, top 18 finish for sure. We can turn one of our only weaknesses into a strength.

    I just don’t know how to fit him in the cap. We need Hemskys scoring on the third line for the offense. We need Nick Shultz to play in the bottom pairing for stability.

    When players get injured Hemsky and Shultz will be the players to move up the lineup without the team losing momentum.

    Maybe we can land Antrapov for some insurance.

    Who’s the dead weight that we can dump to grab grabo?

    Hall Gagner Eberle

    Perron Grabovski Yakupov

    Jones Gordan Hemsky

    Smyth Lander Eager

    Ference J Shultz

    Smid Petry

    N Shultz Grebeshkov

    Dubnyk |

    Depth on D, Depth on W, Depth at C = Playoffs

    I actually think Dubnyk will stop letting in the odd soft goal with his close friend Labarbera watching from the bench….this could be his break out year.

  • Jason Gregor

    Seriously people…Those who debate with DSF are just as idiotic as him.

    He says stupid stuff to get a reaction, and you respond. Do yourself a favour and let it go or do it elsewhere…

    The Nation has had intelligent comment sections for years, but lately it is getting filled with inane and idiotic interactions.

    Try to make it so others might actually want to read the comments, rather than roll their eyes in disgust. You are smarter than that.

    • nuge2drai

      Thanks for wanting to keep the integrity of one of the best Hockey sites around.

      One can avoid the inanity,but sometimes scrolling
      through these side shows is a chore.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        I used to argue with DSF… Arguing how the Oilers are good, they will compete for a playoff spot…

        30, 30, 29, 23….

        He’s almost never right when talking about how great other teams are… But I realize over time he’s been the only one right about the oilers last 4 years….

        Lets hope he’s not right for a 5th…

        Not like he’s wrong, Oilers depth on center is pathetic until Nuge comes back… That’s a fact, it may change at camp, but for now it’s a fact…IMO

  • Jason Gregor

    First…lol…I wish to state that (earlier) my math for team pts was definitely off with that the Oilers need probably 91 to 95 pts this season to get into the playoffs. I wrote that they needed 40 wins, 8 OT wins and 3 to 7 SOW wins to do this…but man was I stupid…lol. I should have wrote that they need about 40 reg/OT/SO wins altogether plus 8 OT losses and/or 3 to 7 SOL.. to obtaing those pts.
    Now I see people are comparing the Flames to the Oilers???? depth at centre?

    Although a strong necessary position it is but one of six on the ice at all times (penaslty time excluded).

    Yeah, the Oilers are not superior with the centre positions now to virtually many teams in the NHL, but… RNH and Gagner have very good to excellent offence/scoring talent, and Gordon is one the best 3rd line centres in the WHOLE league. No one even knows for sure of anything with what Lander, Arcobello or even Acton can do in the 4th line slot yet…

    But the big point I have to make is that the centres do not determine the full game or game scores entirely …. and the Oilers have upcoming outstanding depth of top six to even 8 wingers to help out, and also, the defence and goaltending have to play much better.

    We win as a team and win by “Committee” this yr so who cares (myself) what the Flames got as centres or players or also even anyone else for that matter…JUST WIN OILERS!!!!!

  • Jason Gregor

    The team will have camp and pre-season games to real take a reading on guys like Arcobello, Miller and Acton, and Lander. Besides the first dozen games most all teams will be in a postion where they are checking out new players and prospect [ that might need to go back to Jr. ] so hopefully Oilers arent up against the other teams A list every shift.

    This is Landers shot at the bigs… time for him to make that giant leap..

    Even when Nuge gets back… there’s still room for improvment at the Ctr. postion. Might no happen this year.Forget fillers like Antropov, unless there is a rash of injuries.

    Honestly I am more concerned about the lack of
    grit [still ] going into this season.. Brown cannot handle the rough stuff on his own.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Sign Grabo!! He’s tenacious and bloody nuts! We could use that on our team. Plus, when Gags is healthy, we can keep him as depth and move him to the wing.

    Depth would be nice, no? Dump Hemmer for picks, sign Grabo! We could achieve this even under our cap crunch by kicking Hemmer out of here with a Fort McMurray Rig-style steel toe boot!

    Do it MacT. Grabo will actually backcheck!!

  • toprightcorner

    Okay… do you feel about what Mac T has done so far? All the talk about being done in acquiring players is hog dodo!

    Mac T is pretending to be Mr. Dithers…….and people are really buying it…..LOL.

  • toprightcorner

    How do we know your not lying and pretending to have a ‘smart’ side and a stupid side? Everytime ‘you’ say something stupid you can claim someone is impersonating you. Sounds pretty sketchy and too convenient.