Lux et veritas

The Edmonton Oilers will have a small window of opportunity for a skill center this fall, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues his rehab from shoulder surgery. The two most likely candidates for the job are Mark Arcobello (in photo courtesy Rob Ferguson) and new hire Andrew Miller–signed during the MacTavish era. From a distance, it looks like a close race. Let’s look a little closer.


Andrew Miller is a 5.10, 180 center with terrific skills and an impressive college resume. Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus broke down his skills when Miller was signed by the Oilers:

  • Pronman: Miller displays above-average qualities in terms of his speed, puck skills and overall offensive instincts. In his Senior season especially he showed the ability to consistently create scoring chances and keep the play flowing in the right direction.

There are some concerns from Pronman, however:

  • Pronman: The concerns I would have with Miller are firstly his physical game. He’s a 5′9′’ forward and although he does work hard, I’m not convinced he has the necessary grit and physical qualities to be anything more than replacement level in that area in the pro game. With Miller you also wonder if he has enough offensive talent, meaning if he’s dynamic or merely good, to overcome his size. I see reasonable arguments for and against him on that issue depending on which night you saw him.

Pronman’s concerns about Miller’s offense are strengthened when we run Miller’s college numbers through Robert Vollman’s new equivalency for ECAC college players. (Vollman’s book is here).


  • Age 21 82, 3-18-21
  • Age 22 82, 7-19-26
  • Age 23 82, 4-18-22
  • Age 24 82, 10-13-23

Those numbers suggest an offensive "tweener" and if they do reflect his true offensive value then Miller is unlikely to have an NHL career. However, history tells us that he’ll get every chance to show what he can do during training camp and pre-season, for a couple of reasons. First, he’s a new center and the club will want to see what he can do as soon as possible, and secondly Craig MacTavish signed him and believes in him.

  • MacT: “He’s not big, but he’s strong on the puck and he’s got great hockey sense. He’s a real cerebral player.”


Mark Arcobello is basically the same age, but has been playing pro hockey for three seasons. In 2012-13, Arcobello had a terrific year with the OKC Barons, scoring 22-46-68 in 74 AHL games and playing in his first NHL game with the Oilers. Arcobello also impressed with 236 shots on goal (3rd in the league) and flourished with and without help from the NHL lockout players.

Arcobello’s NHL equivalency from last season (I ran all the Barons forwards through Vollman’s number awhile back) gives us 82, 11-23-34, or a significantly stronger offensive number than Miller’s.

Also important is that MacTavish likes what Arcobello can bring and in fact signed him this summer.

  • MacT: I liked him last year, I was an advocate of giving him an opportunity, especially in our bottom six last year, but he only came up for the one game. It all boils down to your ability to make plays with the puck. When he played with Hall and Eberle in Oklahoma City this year earlier, his production was excellent. It was actually on par with Nuge. I’m not saying that he’s Nuge, but it was on par with Ryan. So I think that we’ll get him to training camp. When we signed him again to a contract I had a conversation with him and told him that he would get a look at training camp. He hasn’t played in an exhibition game or didn’t last year, so we’ll get a look and the rest will be up to him to prove to the coaching staff that he’s got enough game to warrant a bigger look as training camp goes by. I promised him that opportunity and we’re going to give it to him.


The Oilers have not supplied new coach with many depth options at center via the draft. The top end guys (Nuge, Gagner) were lottery picks, Gordon is a free agent signing and Miller/Arcobello are college men. Will Acton is an AHL veteran signed for insurance, and only Anton Lander represents the non-lottery draft group in this battle. Perhaps Travis Ewanyk can push his way into the conversation.

For the Oilers, they need a 4C and a replacement C for the Nuge as he readies himself after surgery. What does that mean? Oiler fans are going to see a lot of these Yale products in pre-season, and we should pray to Baby Jesus at least one of them can grab a job and perform well in it.

Center is not a position of great depth at this time.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is what we bought, at an unprecedented rate no less. We supported this from day 1. 5 yrs of this crap and still no end in sight.

    Screw you 6 rings Lowe.

  • John Chambers

    You guys pray to baby Jesus, or full-grown Jesus, or bearded Jesus for depth at Centre, and I’ll do the same with Allah. With matters this important it’s imperative we have our bases covered.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        The problem isn’t drafting centers. It’s drafting nhl players.

        Since 2010 the following players were drafted as centers:


        Getting players to play center in the NHL is hard. Drafting centers isn’t.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Don’t be a reverse DSF.

            Those are three very solid Cs (of course Sequin still has to prove himself, but regardless he is an exceptional talent). Dallas is much better for Nil’s efforts.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            jeez, the Oilers can’t please the critics no matter who they draft or what moves they make, can they? Nurse was an outstanding pick! and it was clear the Oil were going to get either a long sought after big, talented center in Sean Monahan, or a long sought after *potential* top pairing d-man in Darnell Nurse.
            and yet people still complain! unless you have multiple top 15 picks in the entry draft, you can’t get all the good players you want…so the Oilers finally draft a *potential* top end d-man that this team has been long criticized for not doing, and people *STILL* complain! unreal!!

          • DSF

            1st pairing D?

            PK Subban – 2nd round 43rd overall

            Kris Letang – 3rd round 62nd overall

            Shea Weber – 2nd round 49th overall

            Ryan Suter – 1st round 7th overall

            Andrei Markov – 6th round 162nd overall

            Keith Yandle – 4th round 105th overall

            Dion Phaneuf – 1st round 9th overall

            Brian Campbell – 6th round 156th overall

            Duncan Keith 2nd round 54th overall

            Slava Voynov- 2nd round 32nd overall

            Francois Beauchemin – 3rd round 75th overall

            Alex Pietrangelo – 1st round – 4th overall

            Dan Hamhuis – 1st round 12th overall

            O Ekman Larsson – 1st round 6th overall

            Paul Martin – 2nd round 62nd overall

            Alex Edler – 3rd round 91st overall

            Drew Doughty – 1st round – 2nd overall

            Brent Seabrook – 1st round 14th overall

            Fedor Tyutin – 2nd round 41st overall

            Zdeno Chara – 3rd round – 56ht overall

            Not an exhaustive list but sufficient to indicate that you are just as likely to find a top pairing defenseman later in the draft.

            I guess, if you think Nurse is a slam dunk to be in the company of Doughty, Pietrangelo and Suter, picking him in the top 10 was smart.

            We’ll see.

          • I am the Liquor

            What an insufferable jackass you are.

            If they Oilers had picked a forward you would be on here going on and on about how poor their defense is and how stupid they were to take another forward with their top pick.

            Predictably predictable.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            you are just as likely to find a top scoring forward in the later rounds too, doncha think? and i mentioned that Nurse had the *potential* to be a top pairing, but what if he and Klefbom aren’t? so what? we keep trying to draft/sign/trade for a top d-man. Nurse and Nichuskin were clearly the BPA’s and the Oilers had to choose one and they did. i and many Oiler fans are happy with this pick, and i hope he can turn out to be as good as Pietrangelo or Ekman-Larson. time will tell and i think most Oil fans would agree he’s worth the risk.

          • DSF

            Not true.

            Of the top 30 scoring forwards in the NHL last season, only
            Martin St. Louis, Chris Kunitz, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Ribiero, Henrik Zetterburg, Derek Stepan, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau were drafted after the first round.

            In other words, 22 of the top 30 scoring forwards were first round picks.

            Forwards 31-40?

            Daniel Sedin 1st round

            Joe Thornton 1st round

            Max Pacioretty 1st round

            Jiri Tlusty 1st round

            Pascal Dupuis (Crosby coat tails)

            Zach Parise 1st round

            Sam Gagner 1st round

            Logan Couture 1st round

            Jordan Eberle 1st round

            Mikko Koivu 1st round

            Finding a point producer outside the first round is a rare occurrence (9 out of 40)

            Finding a top pairing D outside the first round is closer to 50-50.

            It’s all well and good to be happy with the pick but when you have only two bonafide NHL centres entering a season, there IS a problem.

          • This.

            Although I don’t see this lasting. Teams seem to always be increasing their scouting staff and I’d like to believe that fewer and fewer top pairing D slip passed the first round in future drafts.

          • DSF

            Or the Oilers could trade for or sign a replacement.

            Counting on an injured Hopkins, a flawed Gagner, a 4th line centre and an AHL guy who can’t piss a drop in the NHL doesn’t strike me as very smart.


          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            They “passed on” a lot of really good players at all positions if we are just talking about players taken after Nurse.

            That’s what we call players projected to go in the first round: “really good players.”

            Taking any of Horvat, Lazar and Gauthier at 7 would have been a mistake IMO. Doesn’t make them any less “really good players.”

          • DSF

            Drafting a D, whose development paths are very slow and crooked, when your D prospect depth is an organizational strength and your centre depth is below AHL level, is just stupid.

            Nurse may well be a very good hockey player in 3-4 years but I’d wager Horvat, Lazar, Shinkaruk and Gauthier will have an impact much sooner.

            The Oilers rebuild can’t wait forever…the clock is ticking toward huge contracts for a bunch of wingers.

            If the Oilers are willing to trade one of the first overall picks to get a bonafide #2C, they may be able to salvage their spotty draft record.

            Pitlick, Martindale, Ewanyk, Yakimov, Roy…good grief.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            “Stupid” is reaching for picks out of organizational need and sacrificing the future.

            You don’t go to the draft table to solve today’s problems. MacT’s draft philosophy: “find the player who will have the greatest impact on their team over the course of their career” is a pretty solid way of saying take the BPA.

            It is never “stupid” to keep the shelves stocked. It would have been stupid to look to any of those Cs to save the C depth issues this year. Complete “cut my nose off to spite my face” stupid.

            ps. How are Lander, Arcobello, Acton and Miller “below AHL level”? Is this one of your “Rajala is a failed prospect moments?”

            pps. what on earth could you possibly see to “pfft” at Yakimov and Roy already? The thinness of your facade is showing.

          • DSF

            The difference between a 7th overall pick and a 9th overall pick (Horvat) is infinitesimal.

            Unless the player you are drafting is a generational talent (I doubt he is), picking a D in the top 10 is dumb.

            Many of the best defensemen in the game were selected in the second round.

            “Stocking the shelves” sounds good in theory but, if you keep stocking tampons while you have no aspirins in the store is ridiculous.

            Solving the lack of C depth is not a question of this season or even next but the centres the Oilers have in the system are pretty much crap.

            When does the team start stocking the shelves with centres?

          • Joy S. Lee

            What was the difference between the 4 & 5 pick in this years’ entry draft? Infinitely infinitesimal?

            And, yet, some might say the difference between picking either Seth Jones or Elias Lindholm may have been significant, and that 30 out of 30 teams would have chosen Jones in the 4 slot, leaving Lindholm for 5th. For such an “infinitesimal” difference, it’s a definite result.

            (By the way, Seth Jones is a defenseman, too. Did Nashville screw up as well?)

            I understand what you are saying about the need to improve the team at that key position, and you’d be right, but your argument that picks that close together are equal is hardly convincing, especially in the top round of the draft.

            Besides, each team does their research, and has their reasons for wanting certain players. I believe the Oilers reasoning was very sound in picking Nurse. You don’t. But it’s they who have the choice, and they chose Nurse. Get on with it, already, you’re condemning something that you won’t have any data for for months, and no real proof for years. How long do you want to debate something like this before the debate is even started?

          • DSF

            If you refer to my original point, I suggested drafting a D in the top 10 was a bad idea unless you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN he will be an impact top pairing D.

            From what I’ve read, Seth Jones meets that criteria while Nurse and Ristolainen don’t.

            While it certainly could happen, there is ample evidence picking a forward in the top 10 is a much, much better bet.

            Having said that, I think Nashville did the right thing not “screw up”.

            For the record, I don’t think the Oilers screwed up either but, given the organizational lack of depth at centre, I really think you have consider the chances of Nurse or, say, Bo Horvat, having more impact on the Oilers over the next decade.

            Considering they already had Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Simpson and Musil (among others) already in the system, I think “drafting for need” in this case would have been the smart thing to do since the perceived difference between Nurse’s and Horvat’s potential is not that great.

            My draft philosophy has always been, if its even close, draft the centre first, a D second and a winger third.

            My thinking there is based on how difficult it is to obtain impact centres.

            Here’s a scouting report on Horvat…let me know if you don’t think he’s EXACTLY what the Oilers need.

            “Strengths – You can make a very strong case that Bo Horvat is the most complete player in this year’s draft class. He does so many things well and can make a positive impact in so many different ways that he amazes me almost every time I see him.

            Horvat is an extremely reliable two-way player, who is among the best in the OHL when it comes to winning faceoffs. His attention to detail, especially in his own zone, is second to none. He’s rarely caught out of position and is used in every defensive situation by Knights head coach, Dale Hunter.

            Horvat isn’t just a defensive specialist, though. He’s a good skater, knows how to drive possession and possesses above average puck skills. He sees the ice well, has a very high hockey IQ and always knows where he needs to be on the ice. Horvat has a hard, accurate shot and is a good passer as well.

            Horvat leaves everything he has on the ice every shift and is very rarely outworked. He’s very strong on the puck and wins a ton of battles along the boards. He’ll finish his checks and isn’t afraid to be physical, but he always keeps a calm demeanour no matter what happens. Horvat doesn’t take many penalties or retaliate to the opposition when they attempt to get under his skin, which you don’t find often in a young player who plays the way he does.

            He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas, he’ll block shots and is the definition of a team first guy. Horvat will do whatever it takes to win and has outstanding leadership qualities. He most certainly has potential to take on a leadership role in the NHL down the road.

            Weaknesses – While he’s a good skater, he would benefit from a little more explosiveness in his stride. He isn’t really dynamic offensively, but given he has offensive ability and is above average in so many aspects of the game, that shouldn’t hinder him at all. Horvat isn’t afraid to use his body and will finish checks, but I’d like to see a little more edge in his game, too.

            Career Projection – Horvat’s an exceptional two-way player with high end leadership qualities, so there’s nothing stopping him from having a lot of success in the NHL. He has the upside to be a top-line center but the safe projection is probably an above average second line center.”

            “When Horvat was selected, Ray Ferraro and Bob McKenzie immediately pointed out that scouts compared him to Ryan O’Reilly and Patrice Bergeron. It is, of course, brutally unfair to compare an 18-year-old prospect to two of the better two-way forwards in the NHL and arguably the best in Bergeron, but no one ever said hockey was fair.”

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            i really wish i could understand the way you see things…the pro scouts had Nurse in the top 10 as well as Ristolainen, and yet picking a d-man in the top 10 is *dumb*? and many of the best d-men were selected in the 2nd round? really? the Oilers would be better off taking another forward in the top 10 and settle for d-men like Ian McCoshen or Chris Bigras instead? hate to say it, but after Bigras, the 2nd round defensive talent falls off. i’m glad the Oilers took a chance on Nurse, but i would have been equally as happy if they had taken Nishushkin or Horvat or Ristolainen.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            It’s a big enough difference that MacT and everyone else, excepting you, thought it worth exploiting.

            Picking D in the top 10 is risky. I don’t think it is dumb. I would have picked the Russian. But today Nurse looks like a safe bet and a better one than any of those Cs and that’s all you need to make the pick.

            Your analogy is meaningless. Players aren’t non-perishable commodities. You can never have enough good players, especially on D.

            No NHL team will ever have enough D. Ever.

            Time, injury, salary cap, collapse of play, free agency, etc.

            Thinking you can stand pat and address other needs because you are good is stupid.

            MacT took 4 centers in his first draft. I’d say the shelf stocking started a few months ago.

          • DSF


            I agree you can never have 2 many D.

            The issue is how you acquire them and what the rest of your roster depth looks like. You can ignore that at your peril.

            Vancouver, for example, is credited with having one of the best D corp in the league.

            Hamhuis – free agent signing

            Bieksa – 5th round pick.

            Edler – 3rd round pick

            Garrison – free agent signing

            Tanev – free agent signing

            Corrado – 5th round pick

            Alberts – 6th round pick

            See any top 10 picks there?

            It’s all well and good to start shelf stocking at C but waiting until #56 doesn’t indicate much of an organizational priority..

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Well, they took RNH at 1. I’d say that was a priority. Gagner at 6th.

            56th was their second pick in the draft. by definition that’s priority compared to the picks of the day. (though I highly doubt Roy ever plays C if he makes it to the NHL).

            Besides, drafts don’t work that way. You pick based on who’s available.

            We all know they wanted Monahan very bad. he was gone.

            Last year, they really wanted Samuelson. he was gone.

            Lots of good players come out of other rounds. But re-drafts aren’t drafts.

            Like I said, I’d have taken the Russian. I don’t prefer D in the top 10. But I don’t think they take a center at 7 unless it is Monahan or Lindholm. I don’t either.

            I prefer Nurse to all those other Cs. But I prefer the Russian above all of them.

            We’ll know in five years or so. With any luck they’ll all have great careers and give us something to enjoy watching.

  • DSF

    Andrew Ebbett.

    5’9″ 175

    U of Michigan.

    Final NCAA season: 41GP 14G 28A 42P

    Best AHL season: Age 23 71GP 26G 39A 65P

    Best NHL season: Age 25 48GP 8G 24A 32P

    Going to war with Andrew Ebbett playing in your top 6 is a recipe for disaster.

  • Spydyr

    How about getting a complete 2C and letting Gagner fill in for the Nuge until he gets back. Then move Gagner to the wing where he belongs.

    You know, if you might like to make the playoffs after seven years.

  • I don’t understand the love for Arcobello. Buddy has played like one game in the bigs. We really have no idea how he’ll do playing a month against the best players in the world.

    Yes, yes we have NHLE’s and gushing coaches but don’t guys who play in the top six either have to work their way in by merit or just be plain damn good (neither which Arcobello has done/is)?

    I don’t see any other option right now other than Lander in the 2C and Smyth taking draws on the fourth line. Might not be ideal but RNH being out for a month means the season could be over by November if we piss away games giving key slots to guys who clearly aren’t ready/qualified.