The Edmonton Oilers are importing tall trees this summer, in the hopes that one of them eventually finds a way to impact at the NHL level. The Oilers HAVE drafted a two-way NHL center in the last few years—Riley Nash—and the NHL is populated with former Oilers like Jarret Stoll and Kyle Brodziak who can effectively play the position. Will this generation’s centers fill the holes?

khaira ferguson 1

Craig MacTavish is bringing some big centers in this spring, and they’re going to be taller in the fall. Let’s have a look at the current pro centers ‘bubbling under’ the NHL.

  • Jujhar Khaira 6.03, 210
  • Bogdan Yakimov 6.05, 202
  • Will Acton, 6.01, 199
  • Anton Lander 6.00, 194
  • Travis Ewanyk 6.02, 192
  • Mark Arcobello 5.08, 166

That runs the gamut, no doubt about it. I don’t think we’ll see any of these men in the NHL next season (save Arcobello, and Lander should he sign), and it might be a couple for Khaira and Yakimov. The prospects we’re talking about at number 3 overall vary a little in size:

  • Leon Draisaitl 6.02, 204
  • Sam Reinhart 6.01, 185
  • Sam Bennett 6.00, 178

That’s from ISS, I rounded up or down as the case may be for each player. 

Here are some bigger centers available in this year’s draft:

  • Shane Eiserman, Dubuque (USHL) 6.02, 200
  • Keegan Iverson, Portland (WHL) 6,01, 219
  • Kyle Petit, Erie (OHL) 6.04, 200

6.02, 183…..

Far below the bigger centers, Brett Pollock looks like a player. I’m sure there are portions of the fanbase who won’t be impressed because of his lack of size, but I’ll wager Pollock has more of a hockey future than most if not all of the bigger men outside the projected first round.

  • Regular season: 71gp, 25-30-55 .775
  • Down the stretch: 35gp, 12-18-30 .857
  • Postseason: 14gp, 10-7-17 1.21

Kyle Woodlief, Red Line Report (October) 

The other pleasant surprise is forward Brett Pollock, who managed to
make the club last year, but sat on the bench most of the season. Red Line
liked him in a very limited energy role last year, as he used his big
frame to spark the team with an up-tempo forecheck. But the fact that
he has already eclipsed his offensive numbers from last year in this
campaign’s first four games has drawn our attention. Pollock seems to
have come back with a much smoother and improved skating stride, and a
new-found confidence in his puckhandling.



The Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Boyd Gordon at the NHL level and some interesting pro hockey players beyond that trio. Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander are likely to see NHL time (should Lander sign) and we can look forward to seeing progress from Khaira and Yakimov in Oklahoma City.

The truth—and this isn’t a great piece of news—is that all of these men are shy offensively. A guy like Lander can handle NHL penalty killing and should help a contending club defensively, but where are the goals going to come from? There’s some hope that Khaira and Yakimov can provide a combination of offense, rugged play and checking to be useful NHL players.

Beyond that? I’d take this Pollock kid if he’s available when the Oilers make their second pick. Oh, I know it’s “another damn Oil King” and that’s not cool. I think Brett Pollock is worth the risk.

He’s a helluva young player, and has a nice range of skills. If the Oilers are fortunate enough to land a second round pick at the draft, Pollock is worthy of consideration.

      • So, are we pretty darn sure Flordia take’s Ekblad 1st overall?

        With Grigorenko , Girgensons and Ennis already on board, if I’m the Sabers I take Reinhart for the pure skill.

        If the Saber do take Bennett , that leaves Reinhart or Draisaitl as draft options for the Oilers, gets a little difficult but I take Reinhart.

        Hoping Bennett fall’s to the Oilers.

        My next season player gamble’s would be

        Ott – Winnik – Downie


        Joensuu – Jones – Acton – Lander –

        let’s Eakins throw in Gazdic when needed.

        • 24% body fat

          I dont think Grigorenko is what Buffalo was expecting and he has KHL written all over him.

          I feel confident in them drafting a center.

          Florida winning the lottery was the 2nd best outcome, because they will draft BPA, which to them is probably Reinhart or Bennett.

          Florida will take BPA but I think their list is Reinhart, Ekblad, Bennet,

          So Florida takes Sam R

          Buffalo take Sam B

          Oilers take Ekblad (please people stop spelling Eckblad)

          • Drafting BPA is always the good bet…

            Having said that FLA is loaded at C spot and have aging D-men.

            They need the D just as bad as the Oilers do.

            IMO – BPA is Ekblad as per most scouting agencies.

            I think the draft plays out like this.

            FLA – Ekblad

            BUF – Reinhart……….(Please!)

            Oil – Bennett

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers have traded their own 2nd,3rd,4th and 5th round selections away.

    Certainly doesn’t reflect well on this organization, after another 28th place finish.

    • Lowetide

      #3 overall (first round)
      #91 overall (fourth round, this is the Bryzgalov return)
      #110 overall (fourth round, this is the Mike Brown return)
      #130 overall (fifth round, this is the first pick of the Ales Hemsky return)
      #137 overall (fifth round, this is the Nick Schultz return)
      #153 overall (sixth round)
      #183 overall (seventh round)

  • Citizen David

    I made a point of following Pollock at every Oil King game I was at this year like I did with Lazar last year. Much like Lazar, pollock doesn’t just pick up points from being lucky or from riding with great line mates. Pollock generates offence. Much like Lazar he is always engaged and won’t ever be called out for dogging it. He melds a hard forechecking/back checking grinding game with playmaking and good awareness of his teamates. At the junior level at least he has a good shot capable of beating a goalie cleanly from 15 feet. Whereas Lazar’s upside is basically limitless, Pollock’s upside would be a two way second line center.

    • I think it’s great the way Pollock has matured as a junior hockey player because this bodes well for the Oil Kings maintaining a strong presence in the league. I think Pollock isn’t a mystery and will probably be plucked in the second round.

  • Thumby

    Here’s the Oil in a nutshell: at this point in the “rebuild” we should be drafting a stud winger this year with a view to that player replacing Hall or Eberle when they are good and ready to in 3-4 seasons. But no, we’re still drafting based on a desperate need: a big C. A big C who won’t be ready for 3-4 seasons. Right around the time our wingers are moving on or trending down.

    We’re in a stinky, poorly managed spiral. At least we have each other.

    • 24% body fat

      Draft the center, convert to wing. Cant have to many centers.

      San Jose has four centers on their power play. 2 right handed 2 left. If one gets thrown out of the draw the other goes in.

      Imagine if Hall and Yak were natural centers, We would have no problem with center depth.

      Wingers are also easier to trade for. We always say Eberle or Yak need to go for a number one D. Do we ever say trade nuge.

      When Eberle, Yak or Gagner go for a Dman, I think it best to trade the winger. Yes we are giving up a better player but he will not only get you more, gagner than moves to wing and can fill in at center upon injury,

      This is Depth.

  • bwar

    Can’t wait to see Yak City 2.0 in an Oilers Jersey.

    I could see the sharks shaking things up a bit but I don’t think they will be making any trades with the Oilers.

        • Word to the Bird


          Thornton is exactly the type of player that Edmonton could use. An undisputed #1 center who is strong on the draws, a premier playmaker, good size, and a locker room voice. Unfortunately I doubt we ever see Jumbo in Oilers silks…

  • Word to the Bird

    We’ve seen it in the past, we’ll see it again. Defensemen always fall at the top of the draft.

    Between Buffalo and Florida, I can only see Florida picking a defenseman, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they’ll pick either Bennett or Reinhart with the number one selection. Defensemen just aren’t off the board as quickly as a premier scorer is. This is all my opinion of course, but remember that Jones was supposed to go #2 overall last year…

  • Word to the Bird

    The Oilers need to make some hockey trades this off season. The problem with this is that as the 28th place team and having been in the basement for the last few years the entire NHL knows that the general quality of players on the roster is very sub standard. As a result the other teams want to cherry pick our top players and prospects.

    Knowing this, MacT must be very careful in his attempts to improve the roster this summer. Almost any situation MacT faces means he is going to have to overpay to get what he wants. As a result,I believe it is critical for the |Oilers to retain their #3 overall pick and draft one of the top 4 prospects. It is probably the only way MacT will get full value in any deal this off season.

  • Thumby

    We have plenty of draft choices in system already waiting to develop , but a base that simply seems to be getting worse instead of better . Until we form a better base it is unlikely our club will go anywhere upwards in next couple of seasons . MacT. has done little via trade, etc. to give us a decent base . He’s weeding out , but bringing in very little to turn this club into a contender . All decent teams have a solid base behind their offensive stars -we do not as results point out.
    We are weak down the middle and even worse defensively . Until that changes we are going to remain at bottom of conference and league . What we have now as a base around our youth is more the problem than the answer to being more competitive .

      • I don’t think you are right on that.

        Bob Mackenzie was on TSN radio in Toronto yesterday and said Talon doesn’t view this draft class as being that good.

        He also needs a scoring winger top play on the right side with Barkov.

        Yakopuv’s junior numbers were as good or better than this draft class. He scored well in his rookie season. Like Huberdeau he had a bad second season, but he still has value and should come back strong in the right circumstances.

        If his scouts like Yakopuv, I could see that deal happening. The story line for his fans would be a first overall for a first overall. But one that is two years more experienced and therefore should help the team win sooner.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Leon Draisaitl 6.02, 204—A Tall Pine——–
    Sam Bennett 6.01, 185—A Short Oak———
    Sam Reinhart 6.00, 178—-A Pussy Willow

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Jujhar Khaira 6.03, 210———-

    Bogdan Yakimov 6.05, 202———

    Will Acton, 6.01, 199——–

    Anton Lander 6.00, 194——–

    Travis Ewanyk 6.02, 192——–

    Mark Arcobello 5.08, 166——–

    Looks like two trees and some shrubs.

    And a weed Arco…no matter how hard you try to beat him down or get rid of him, he just keeps poppin up! He’s the kind of weed that could put a crack in your cement!

  • Yesterday I watched the pre-WC game Germany vs Switzerland and took an eye on Draisaitl playing against men:
    Negative: He really isn’t the fastest guy out there which I don’t like and he seems to slown down when he enters the offensive zone and searches the space for a pass. He also made a horrible pass right on the blade of a opponent which caused a huge chance for the Suisse.
    Positive: Draisaitl uses his body very effectively to protect the puck and that allows him too look for the open space to make a pass. Leon had one assist on a beautiful play with Tobias Rieder (ex Oiler prospect – had a huge game, 1 goal, 1 assist). Draisaitl made a couple of amazing passes, he seems to find the open spot most times and he was also pretty good in the faceoff. This was Draisaitl’s first game with men and overall he payed a solid game. His line, with Tobias Rieder and Plachta was the best one on the ice.

    PS: Kevin Fiala, the 17-year old swiss looked just amazing! One of the best players yesterday!

    • Word to the Bird

      Good write up. His speed can be improved. Remember Monahan had a similar knock. Same with couturier. He slows down in the ozone because he likes to slow the game down and look for his wingers, like Thornton.

      Watched him in the whl playoffs and his passes from the corner to the slot were spot on. Him and yak would have nice chemistry.

      They do say his awareness is off the charts is I would expect him to adapt to making smart plays as he develops.

      • Yeah I think he would have great chemistry with Yak too.

        But when it comes to the Draft I would prefer to take Bennett! But my guess is that he will be taken by Buffalo, so the Oilers have to choose between Reinhart and Draisaitl and then I don’t really know who I would take, but I lean towards the German because of his size.

        And I really hope Draisaitl will play at the WC so we would have the chance to take another look at how he does against NHL players.

        • Thumby

          Fair enough. My preference Is leon due to size and board/puck protection skills.

          I like that Bennett is complete and feisty. Ok with him. I love reinharts hockey sense but lacks flash and size. My preferences:





          As Gregor said, leon has played against sub par players up until last year when he came to the dub. Could be a lot more to his game, just late development.

  • If Oilers should land Ekbald, then I would open up the vault and go after Stasny! Not sure he would want to comer here, but $7.5 @ 5 years might do it.

    He could beome the No.1 Ctr. and Nuge can drop back to 2 nd line, and have some development time.

  • Word to the Bird

    The size of the players heart or the fight in him is more important then his physical size at times.

    Andrew Shaw on the Hawks is only 5.10 and 180 lbs.
    What team wouldn’t want this player as one of their centermen.

  • I think the Oilers will have to look at Bennett at the combine and decide if he has the body type to put on strength and play in the NHL with his style.

    It is nice he compares himself to Gilmour but the NHL has changed players are much bigger and stronger.

    If however he gets the green light from the Oilers size and strength I would pick him over Ekblad.





  • Sorensenator

    who to draft? Which players have the character the Oiler covet and the compete level that the Oilers have been lacking? That’s Bennett and Ekblad (either will be great). If there are no major trades prior to the draft, Panthers need defence help (Jovocop & Campbell > 30 and nearing twilight of their careers=Ekblad). Sabres need offence (Bennett/Reihart). Oilers will probably have to move up in order to pick one of Ekblad or Bennett. Only if Buffalo pulls off a “Colorado” and name their player (Sam Reinhart) 1 weeks prior to the draft, will the Oilers be ok at 3.

  • Brad 21

    It’s too early to give up on Yakupov. By eye, you’ve seen it as well as I, this kid is probably the best pure goal scorer on the team. Great shot, great hand eye, showed great scoring instincts in his rookie year.

    Yak struggled with position this past year. You see young guys struggle with this many times. Being smart positionally without thinking about it too much. If he can master that, he’s going to be one heckuva player.

    • Brad 21

      I am not sure where the mentality is that trading a player is always giving up on him. I don’t feel that Yak will become a top tier forward, so if you can turn that asset into a better asset deal away. Even if Yak does become a 70 point player and we make the playoffs because we turned him into a top 3 defence man I would call that a success. And we haven’t had many of those recently.

    • Brad 21

      I wouldn’t trade him because I an giving up on him. I would trade him if trading him would allow me to acquire a player that filled a greater need like a defender or a centre with skill and sandpaper.

  • Brad 21

    If we land a second round draft choice ( Gagner for a second rounder) I would love to see us stock up with centres.

    I for one can’t believe that we are so thin on the two most important positions in hockey……..centreman and defensemen.

    Thanks Tamby you useless clown!

  • Brad 21

    No chance, without trade, of getting Polluck, but LT can you do a write-up on Nick Ritchie.

    Yes, Oil need centers and a projected top D, but we also have no one in organization that can do power forward – of super heavyweight variety – that could score in top six role.

    So, yes pick BPA but do it by type. It could be several drafts before someone else can match you with makeup of this kid. (Go watch closely the utube highlights – watch his shot, watch him drop shoulder, watch him skate, hit, fight). Besides the top end in this draft doesn’t look to project as elite.

    Thought for a while that we could trade down two or three spots but now I’m thinking just get him. Then ask yourself who else in west can match you for this ingredient (gawd knows we haven’t been working on make-up of team so far).

    p.s. Draisaitl, no thanks, puck protection at that speed I don’t see translating well. Watch his toe drag release and compare again with Ritchie’s. The two Sams are just too much of same for Oil and, yes, I know how badly we need center.