As we approach mid-summer, the Edmonton Oilers depth chart at center remains ‘one in, one out’ with an AHL veteran added for spice. With the Nuge likely unable to battle opening night, and with Boyd Gordon replacing Shawn Horcoff, what is the vision for this position?

Anton Lander had an interesting season in Oklahoma City. He arrived for training camp ready for action, and the OKC Barons had a very nice lineup. Here’s the opening night 2012-13 forward group:

  • L1: RNH-Paajarvi-Eberle
  • L2: Green-Martindale-Pitlick
  • L2: Lander-Hartikainen-Arcobello
  • L4: VandeVelde-Byers-Hamilton

The early prospect push was for Tyler Pitlick (and Martindale) but it didn’t last long, and frankly Lander’s early work was not impressive. "Invisible" was an early description from the fanbase, and his October boxcars (6, 0-0-0 +2) suggested there wasn’t a lot getting done with Lander on the ice.

October bled into November and Lander (10, 1-0-1 -2 in November) moved down the depth chart (Arcobello moved to center as the roster shakeup flushed the prospects downward) as the slump continued. It was during that month though that things began to look up, as in early December I suggested:

  • The line of Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi hasn’t been together long, but there does seem to be chemistry in the group. Now, they’re not scoring goals but do have the puck headed in the right direction. Sure it’s the AHL, but I think we can agree this year’s AHL is extra difficult and that the best minor league in the world is pretty damn tough in normal times. It is the first good sign for Anton Lander in quite a long time, a spark and the hint of a flame.


I think that Nordic line was a key to the season, and possibly Lander’s North American career. In my opinion, this was the first time since the Atlantic Crossing that Lander felt he was pushing the river. And if we look at his boxcars as the season rolls along, we can see it:

  • October through December: 27, 2-4-6
  • January through April 20, 7-7-14
  • Playoffs: 8, 5-3-8

What’s more, Lander’s shots-on-goal totals–a reflection of how much more time he was spending at bat (as opposed to in the field) had a very nice direction:

  • Oct through Dec: 29 in 27 games, 1.07 shots-per-game
  • Jan through April: 49 in 20 games, 2.45 shots-per-game
  • Playoffs: 27 in 8 games, 3.38 shots-per-game

Good, good arrows.


Craig MacTavish’s first move as GM was to recall Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen for the time honored ‘look-see’ late in the season. I believe we got the Harski answer early on in the summer, but Lander remains and the Oilers haven’t done a lot to threaten Lander’s hold on 4C.

Will Acton is a 4line option with size and experience, but beyond that–and Acton’s contract is a small bargain should be make the big club ($680,000 for a 4line C in this day and age is very, very good)–there’s not a lot that threatens Lander.

His NHL performance was uneven and of course Lander flourished in the Oklahoma spring. Comparing Lander and Acton offensively at the AHL level leaves little doubt about the better option in that area:

  • Acton: 6.02, 190 (26 years old) 141gp, 15-20-35 (.248 points per game)
  • Lander: 6.00 194 (22 years old) 61, 10-15-25 (.410 points per game)


I think the Oilers will be shopping the free agent list until very late (Steckel) and the waiver wire after that (you never know) but as it stands Anton Lander appears to be the better bet for 4C in Edmonton come October.

(Lander photos by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved)

(I am SO sorry about the title of this post)

  • oliveoilers

    At some point in time, the Oilers are going to have to draft a player with size, that plays center.

    It’s not that hard, each and ever year there are players available but we seem so stuck on a BPA strategy that we will draft a small, fast , skilled winger just because he is a couple of spots ahead of the player that we really need. We do it every year, and then complain all year how we have to find a big bodied skilled centerman.

    Just draft him……it’s not that hard, just takes balls to select someone ahead of their draft order.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Drafted as Cs since 2010:

      TYLER PITLICK 6′ 2″ 195

      RYAN MARTINDALE 6′ 3″ 207

      TRAVIS EWANYK 6′ 1″ 192

      BOGDAN YAKIMOV 6’4”, 201

      GREG CHASE 6’0, 195

      That doesn’t include the “smaller” players: RNH (6’1″ 185), Platzer and Roy.

      Some of those players aren’t projecting well, some haven’t played C in a long time. Some are simply too early in their development to know what they are/will be.

      All of which is to say, the Oil have drafted big Cs. Drafting them isn’t the hard part.

      The hard part is finding NHL players big or otherwise.

      • oliveoilers

        I was referring more to first round draft choices……..I was thinking more of trading down to secure a player that “fits the bill”, as opposed to taking what happens to be in the pecking order.

        • DSF

          This past draft would have been an ideal opportunity to do just that.

          While not a giant at 6’00” 210, Bo Horvat was available when the Oilers picked.

          Given how many young D they are already developing, Horvat might have been a better pick than Nurse and would have been NHL ready much sooner.

          • Ducey

            Nurse is a much better prospect than Horvat.

            Horvat had 61 pts in 67 games on a stacked London Knights team. He is 6 ft and had 29 PIM. Frankly those are pretty tame boxcars for a guy taken 9th.

            Nurse is 6’5″ and had 41 pts in 68 games – as a defenseman. Add in elite skating, a terrific athlete, the Scholastic player of the year, and 116 PIMs and I think the Oilers got the better player.

            The Oilers could have drafted a C but you go with the best player available. That was Nurse.

          • DSF

            Way too early to come to those conclusions.

            Nurse is a very promising prospect but I wouldn’t take a D in the top 10 unless the player was a sure fire bet to be a franchise D and I don’t Nurse fits that description.

            Past drafts are littered with D drafted in the top 10 who, years later, are not living up to their draft pedigree and many of the best defensemen in the league were selected in the second round

            When you consider the Oilers have Klefbom, Marincin et al already in the pipeline, I don’t think it would have been a stretch to go for best centre available.

          • DSF

            Fully agree, we’re no closer to making judgements on these players than we were on draft day.

            I have no problem with stockpiling D prospects, for exactly the reason you outlined, they don’t always develop into franchise quality players.

            Will Nurse be a legit franchise D man? I don’t have a good answer for that, but his skating, pedigree, and love of hitting makes me pretty confident he’ll at least develop into a true top 2 D-man, if not a top D-man that falls just short of the franchise tag.

            Lots to like about Nurse’s game, but cautionary tales like Plante or Teubert (I know, not EDM’s pick) supports your idea about not picking D men high in the draft, top 10 or otherwise close to top 10 (15th and 13th respectively) as these guys were.

          • The Soup Fascist

            I would agree it is too early to make those judgments. Would you concede it is also too early to definitively say that Seth Jones will be a “better” NHL defenseman than Darnell Nurse.

            I watched Jones a fair bit on line and during the playoffs here. He is an outstanding skater with a large frame – but is he definitively better than Nurse?

            1) Nurse is 4 months younger than Jones – is that a big deal – maybe not.

            2) Both come from professional athlete gene pools.

            3) Jones put up more points, but to be fair he had a lot more talented cast / better team around him. A lot easier to put up points playing with Leipsic / Petan / Rattie than Nick Cousins (who you may be familiar with) and two guys I promise no one knows without looking them up. They are not household names in their own houses.

            4) Jones participated in scoring on 16.8 % of his teams goals and Nurse got points 15.8% of the times that the Soo scored.

            5) Both are going to be 6’4″ 220 lb D-men who skate exceptionally well.

            6) Nurse appears to be a far more physical player than Jones.

            So I agree, no way to definitively say Nurse would be a “better” – whatever that means – player than Horvat. Could the same not be said for Jones v. Nurse? To be clear if they were both on the board I would have taken the safe pick – Jones. But, in five years I think it is going to be interesting to see where these two young men are in their development. The big plus Jones has from this point forward is the mentorship he will get from a Weber. Hopefully a veteran will be in place to do the same for Nurse in the not too distant future.

          • I agree Soup, although I tend to think at the end Jones maybe a little less hectic/scramble in his defensive game.

            Both are going to be good players.

            I also agree with DSF with the way the draft went down it may have been advantageous to take Horvat, with the Oilers D prospects in the system Nurse may not matter as much.

            Horvat won’t project as a scorer, but he may very well be Peca 2.0, a very amazing player in his own right.

          • The Soup Fascist

            I get that. I am typically a draft forwards / trade for D men guy. But which D prospect has the tools that Nurse has? A big tough physical Dman who potentially can play in the top 2? Klefbom would appear to be big and skilled but is not a banger. Marincin is also big and has some ability but I don’t think I have ever seen the mean streak that Nurse appears to have. Gernat is a project – own zone play is foreign concept. Musil is a bottom pairing guy due to footspeed. I think Nurse can be a 25 to 30 minute guy. DSF is right it is easy to lose highly rated D men as they develop. I don’t know, I have a feeling about this kid.

          • I agree with all this, I honestly believe we (Oilers) need this player, I pray to the hockey gods he turns into something special.

            I will say this is the first draft though, I felt the Oilers left something on the table, but, also the first draft in a longtime were the Oilers used the draft to there full advantage.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            It’s much harder to predict defense and how quickly their game can adapt to the NHL level? I for one love the pick ( Darnell Nurse) but I’m just tired of hearing about lacking size in the centre position.

            I also do not buy into the notion the the BPA is the best strategy……….the best strategy is to get the player you really need so you are not overpaying for this player through other means!

            Bo Horvat will be a good player and already has the size that we so covet.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          So, you’d rather not have: Hall, RNH, Yakipov and Nurse?

          FWIW I gather the Oil wanted one of Lindholm or Monahan ahead of Nurse, but given the options, Nurse was a fine choice.

          Besides, I suspect the same people complaining about size at C complain about size at D. Don’t take Nurse and people will be asking “where’s the violence on the D?”

          • Obiwan Eberle - Team 5-14-6-1

            I for one, am very excited to see what our D looks like in 3-4 years

            Marincin 6’4″
            Klefbom 6’3″
            Nurse 6’5″
            Gernat 6’4″

            That’s some height there…big question will be beef. 3 of them are in need of 20lbs

          • oldhippy

            I suspect that no matter what transpired at the draft, there would be a contingent on this board that would ridicule it. Craig Button was going off at the draft “the Oilers get it, they finally get it”, because they drafted a big D. The TSN guys seem to be unaware that we really already have a decent defence prospect pool. A centerman would have preferable, but I would not have passed on Nurse to draft Horvat, nor would I have traded down to draft Horvat. Trading away high first round picks leads to Toronto. Guys like Nurse are hard to trade for once they pan out. I suspect some posters here need to learn to be righteous and positive for a change!

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I think that is basically right.

            You never draft for need, especially in the first round.

            Missing out on Lindholm and Monahan ≠ the best option at 7 was Horvat or Gauthier or Lazar.

            Now, if one of those players was legit ahead of Nurse on the team’s list… fine. You’d hear bloody murder from people but at least you’d be taking who you felt was the BPA.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            “Past drafts are littered with D drafted in the top 10 who, years later, are not living up to their draft pedigree and many of the best defensemen in the league were selected in the second round

            When you consider the Oilers have Klefbom, Marincin et al already in the pipeline, I don’t think it would have been a stretch to go for best centre available.”

            ~~~ ~~~


            How many forwards are littered in past Drafts from the Top 10 as well..?

            You seem to point out MPS & Gagner as 2 of them yourself lately… Oh, I forgot, the Oilers drafted them.

            So scouts don’t have a list as to who THEIR objective standard is toward the BPA in their opinions..?

            As for Big Bob’s list… He had Horvat at #13 & Nurse at #9, so who is the BPA in his eyes then..? (& the 10 scouts he uses each year to come up with his Draft list)

            Bob also had 2 Centers rated higher than Horvat as well.

            As for Button… Craig had him at #8 on his Draft list, but also had him going to the Oilers at #7 on his Mock Draft.

            Not to mention that he had Horvat at #19 on his list & going #18 in his Mock Draft.

            Button had 5 Centers rated before Horvat…

            So you mean YOUR opinion who the “Best Center Available” was Horvat then..?
            The same opinion that there is no “objective standard” with..?

            I am having a very HARD time seeing your point here with this…

            Oh… There isn’t 1… It’s just being pedantic once again & putting a Knuck prospect ahead of an Oiler 1.

            The transparency is blinding…


          • DSF

            As no one is able to predict how players will turn out or how they project down the road with any certainty……..just how do you square your rationale? If the perfect centre for us was a couple of spots down the list what you are saying is that you pick the player you don’t need, just because he is ahead of what you really need.

            I find this whole argument void of any logic……..each and every year players drafted fail to meet their expectations. Guys drafted in the later rounds often out compete guys drafted ahead of them. When exactly did drafting become an exact science?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Projections are best estimates. You take them in stride, but you don’t dismiss them simply because the future = unknown in the last instance.

            Dismissing them is a terrible strategy.

            Chasing need is stupid. Plain and simple.

            What you need, in the last instance, isn’t a centre, a defenseman, a winger a goalie, etc.

            What you need, in the last instance, is NHL players. The better they are, the better it is for your team.

            The idea that you are ever secure at a position and should therefore take a weaker player is stupid.

            No one is talking about exact science. We are talking about maximizing opportunity.

          • Maximizing opportunity…… does picking off a unpredictable list, ensure that you are getting the BPA?

            How does picking the best available player compliment your line up if you already have those type of players? Try and think outside of the box for a second………BPA is NOT a science and does not guarantee you diddly squat!

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            No one is talking about “insuring” anything. No one is talking about complementing current line ups. No only is talking about a “science that guarantees” anything.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Well I bow to your genius……..I should have known better. I still have not met one person connected to hockey that can rationalize the concept of using BPA as the sole method for selecting players.

            I like GM’s that occasionally take a chance on selecting a player ( regardless of what the pundits say) based on internal intelligence/scouting. The professional lists in my mind are just as much subjective as any method………I like teams that devote time, resources, and effort at doing their own scouting. We all know who those teams are.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I don’t know what you are talking about.

            The fact that DSF can’t read has little to do with draft philosophy.

            And, you are over-interpreting the basic philosophy of BPA.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^you never should draft for need that high, but the Oilers ended up getting what they needed anyways in a potential top d-man instead of a big center, so it worked out well.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Not sure how this transformed from a story about Anton Lander into a discussion about why they should have picked someone else at #7 at the draft, but….

    Darnell Nurse is big, good passer, has athletic bloodlines, and skates REALLY well with that size. And is as mean as mean can be.

    On this team, that last part is just what the doctor ordered. Nurse fills that prescription.

    Our D is now very well-stocked with plenty of really good potential. The focus can shift to center and goal now as primary needs, with a lookout for a good-sized winger with skill. And I like Lander, think he will be a good bottom 6C and great team guy/leader in Eakins’ system.

  • The Soup Fascist

    On the lighter side -Oilers need a Nurse as they spend far too much time in the infirmary . Dangling Question : Should Oilers still persue UFA’s still available , rather than rush farm club up that quite frankly is not NHL credible upgrades ? It seems to me even a good older veteran , used for one year, is better than rushing an unproven farm club member whom might be better to stay on AHL club for most of the season . Still several proven veterans available in UFA that could be cheap and better for our on ice team in a short term – bridging the gap so to speak .

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    The other things we need to keep in mind here:

    — though forwards develop faster, very few (maybe 3) will be impact players in the near future. You don’t go to the draft board to solve today’s problems.

    — the next likely candidate for #7 the Oilers have acknowledged was the big Russian. They weren’t even considering a C if both Lindholm and Monahan were gone.

  • DSF

    Soup Facist:
    desjardin looked at all the juniors who translated to the NHL.

    From the results there are very standardized values for expected junior production translating to nhl by age.
    in seth jones draft year he was an early oct birth.
    it is expected he will produce at 51% of his offensive production
    nurse an early Feb birth will be 59%.

    nurse should translate (59/51 = 1.16) 16% more of his production to NHL.

    I checked your numbers for Nurses even scoring incorret. (even 10G 19A pp 2G 10 Assists.
    So (.426 even and .174 PP)

    The % of scoring is similiar it shows a need to look at the line mates.

    Jones was .92 PPG with Top 6 forwards who averaged 1.32ppg/player.
    Worst case he was playing with 1.18ppg players on average.
    He was involved in 78% of there scoring. best case.
    Of jones’s .92PPG .541 59% was even and 41% was PP.
    So of the 1.18 PPg teamates jones played with even scoring was 46% (.541/1.18) of teamates production.

    Nurse played with a top 6 that was .98 PPg /player.
    we know nurse faced tough comp with secondary players @ even. Played on second Pp unit for 4/5 of the year and top after injury
    . Best case he was playing with .86 PPG players@ even.
    Of nurses .60 PPG .426 71% was even and .174 29% PP.

    So of the the .86PPG player he played with even scoring was 50% (.426/.86) of teamates production.

    Nurse had a better % of teamates results 50% to 46%

    looking at PP production.
    We know Nurse got 2nd Unit pp4/5 and 1st 1/5.
    first unit was .373 and 2nd .220
    so nurse played with on average .251 PPP/gm players.
    nurse was .174/.251 involved in 70% of pp production.

    By results Jones played largely 1st unit.
    so jones was .378/.532 or 71% of teamates pp production.

    So nurse had a better production based on forwards he played with at even.
    and equal results on the PP.

    And cause he is younger we will likely se 16 5 better translated results in the NHL.

    I had not really looked into him cause of our current prospect depth at D.

    But wow.

    • Joy S. Lee

      This may be “off-the-board” a little bit, but I enjoyed “seeing” your work there in the analytical aspect.

      I have no trouble stepping out on the ledge and predicting Jones’ NHL success. And, I feel pretty confident in Nurse, as well, but even moreso now, since the numbers back it up!

      I used to be quite the stats guy myself. At some point I shifted from the numbers to observing the players in a more esoteric light, but I still appreciate the value in the numbers. Just wanted to say I find the evolution of these analytics very interesting, and can see why NHL guys like MacT would give them merit.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    one thing about teubert was all the kool aid the media was feeding us about him. if what was written was to be believed he was the second coming of jason smith, then about seven or eight months ago he was well on his way to the scrap pile. i would love to see a scouting report on this guy for his draft year, if anyone has this please post it.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Comparable: Shea Weber

      From TSN: The hard-rock defenceman, who draws comparisons to Shea Weber and Adam Foote, is as competitive and feisty a player as there is in this draft. What he lacks in offensive upside, he makes up for with his ferocity and defensive prowess. He relishes the opportunity to go head-to-head with the other teams’ top players. By all accounts, there is no love lost between him and Kyle Beach.

      From NHL Central Scouting: Colten is a smooth skating defenseman, who can skate the puck out of trouble and can jump up the ice with the puck. Has the ability to take charge of the game.

      he was highly… very highly thought of.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    As for Lander…

    He could truly be the 1 REAL BIG surprise for the Oilers this season, & I for 1 hope he is…

    I’ve been following the meatball since before his Oilers days, & was thrilled when the Oil drafted him.

    FYI… He already gave up his #57 to Flash Gordon.

    So he will be donning a new set of digits in River City this season.
    Taking Stoll’s #16 & filling his shoes would be quite apropos IMO…


  • Joy S. Lee

    Oh, should have added in my earlier post: the thing I really like about Nurse is that nasty mean streak is combined in a real athlete who is a gifted skater.

    Take any defenseman, and ask for what you’d want in a player for that position.
    Size. Check.
    Athletic. Check. Double-check.
    Physical. Check. Double-check.
    Competitive. Check. Double-check.
    Passing. Check.
    Nasty. Check. Double-check.
    Skating. Check. Double-check.

    Any time you have a package of “excellent skater” in with size, and “mean and nasty,” you have a keeper. The perfect defenseman would be a combination of four guys: Scott Niedermayer and Paul Coffey as the pure skater who patrols and controls the entire ice surface while creating advantages, and Scott Stevens and Zdeno Chara, who’s size, physicality and fierce competitiveness creates fear and takes the opposition ‘off their game’, and generally keeps their own end clean from chaos.

    Of course there are numerous elements to a complete game, but this Darnell Nurse kid has a number of them to various degrees, and especially the key ones I just mentioned. If he hones his passing and fills out as we suspect he will, this kid is going to be a difference-maker, and especially on THIS team, where his skill-set will be needed and evident. IMHO he is the perfect complimentary piece to this team of talented youngsters, and look forward to when he’s pushing the envelope to join the big team.