I well remember Anton Lander’s first months in North America. In July of 2011, he was regarded as the biggest surprise of rookie camp, faster than before and a mature young man with a brain for knowing. By the next summer, he was more suspect than prospect. WHY do the Oilers keep doing these things? And, while I’m at it, WHY do the scouts receive all of the blame?

During that period in July 2011 when Lander was exciting the fanbase with his lightning skates, the powers that be and onlookers were just about as thrilled:

  • Stu MacGregor July 2011: “His effort is so
    consistent, every shift. The best way to put it is he works smart. He’s
    really intelligent, good on ­faceoffs. That really stood out for us. His
    skating may have held him back from being a first-round pick, but it’s
  • Bruce McCurdy:
    “Lander might be on the fast track up (to Edmonton). He showed a new
    level of speed that was missing last year. There was one play where he
    just turned it up a notch, and he just turned it on and was gone. It was
    an unexpected burst from that player”
  • Steve Serdachny: “Anton has had incredible development. He’s made incredible strides in
    his skating and his quickness, he has so many great intangible qualities
    and a fantastic individual. Foot speed, mobility, efficiency have been a
    part of his program and something he’s been working on. This guy is a
    dedicated learner and working hard to become an Edmonton Oiler.”

It was probably the highlight of Lander’s Oilers career. He made the team that fall and played 56 NHL games, scoring little but helping on the penalty kill. Since then, Lander has established himself as a classic “Four A” player, in that he can score in the AHL (equivalent of baseball’s Triple A) but cannot help even a little offensively in the NHL. 

lander ferguson 1415

This fall, the expectation was that Lander would help out at the NHL level:

MacT: “Much
like Chicago’s got where they have three lines of offensive guys and a
fourth line that can play against anybody. That’s what we’d really like
to do. We need (Anton) Lander to step up and (Mark) Arcobello, or add a
free-agent forward or two who can compete for those jobs. Maybe somebody
who could come in and be a good fit with Yak (Nail Yakupov on the third
line). We have the first line (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle). If we
can draft a guy at centre who can play, then we’d have that guy, Perron
and Sam or some form of that.”

We haven’t seen him yet this season, but probably will at some point. It’s interesting to note that coach Dallas Eakins has called upon Will Acton and Bogdan Yakimov before bringing Lander in this year. It’s also worth noting that Mark Arcobello—an AHL rookie in 2011-12—passed Lander long ago as an NHL option. 

oesterle ferguson 14-15

Jordan Oesterle. All photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved.

How does this happen so often? Let’s take this season as an example. Entering the year, Edmonton’s top-rated new pro prospects were Bogdan Yakimov, Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira. However, when looking at rookie scoring in Oklahoma City, it is once again an undrafted college player who leads the way:

  1. D Jordan Oesterle 22GP, 4-6-10
  2. C Bogdan Yakimov 17GP, 1-6-7
  3. C Jujhar Khaira 19GP, 1-2-3
  4. D Dillon Simpson 19GP, 2-0-2
  5. L Josh Winquist 2GP, 0-1-1
  6. L Mitch Moroz 17GP, 0-1-1

Once again the Oilers top-ranked prospects are not scoring, in Moroz’ case not at all. During his media avail on Friday, Craig MacTavish spoke to the issue:

  • MacT: “It (absence of drafted players from later rounds) undermines the
    performance of everything we do on and off the ice, and it has to get
    better.  From the minute we took over we focused on improving our draft
    You’re right, there were only two players who played in Winnipeg
    drafted outside of the first round. So we’re acutely aware of the
    former inadequacies of our draft after the first round. We’ve worked
    hard to improve all of our draft processes. We are more regionally
    focused. There’s more of an emphasis on getting to know the players,
    interviewing the players. We’ve integrated a lot of analytics into our
    decision making. We’ve integrated a lot of technology into our video
    scouting. We’ve got more management now in the field communicating with
    our scouts. We’ve got a draft philosophy since I took over in an effort
    to improve our draft record.
    Last year’s draft is tough to evaluate
    because we didn’t have a 2nd or 3rd round pick. The draft before I think
    we’ve added a lot of pieces & a lot of things that we needed.”


moroz ferguson 1415 1

Let’s see if we can test this. As you know, Craig MacTavish arrived on the scene in the weeks before Nail Yakupov was selected in the 2012 entry draft. Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira were also selected in that draft and of course Bogdan Yakimov was selected in 2013—and is clearly a MacTavish man.

Is it reasonable to associate all of those men with Craig MacTavish? I think it is. So, with the new draft philosophy and more men and machines looking at things, an undrafted college defenseman is playing and scoring more than all of them?

I don’t think we need forensics to suss out there’s an issue and I don’t think blaming the scouts exclusively comes close to finding the heart of the matter. It seems to me that the Oilers pro prospects who are coming out of junior and Europe are having to adjust and that there’s no hurry to insert them into the deep end from the coaching perspective. College men like Mark Arcobello and Jordan Oesterle appear to be getting the push, while junior and Euro’s like Bogdan Yakimov and Mitch Moroz are brought along slowly (Lander being the spectacular—and failed—exception).

And this during a time when their development is key. That’s an issue, taking place miles from the scouting staff. Perhaps the problem is more “development” than “draft”? Perhaps these young men belong in the ECHL, but if that’s the case what does it say about Craig MacTavish and his focus on improving the draft record?

Interesting to ponder.

  • YFC Prez

    The oilers are weak in an area that they need to be better at than most organizations.

    Even being average in drafting/developing can’t cut it for this team. They need to be ABOVE average if they are to find any success.

    This is doubly important for the oilers because they can’t lure free agents like other cities.

  • PlayDirty

    It’s been discussed at the NHL level that our players have had to play at least one line over their heads. This same issue is going to flow down through the ranks to the minors too. Because we have a couple of guys on our NHL roster that should be in the ‘A’, could the guys down there be playing above where they should be? Is that the case in the ECHL too? Maybe it doesn’t matter?

  • PlayDirty

    MSN has article about Oilers are bad at drafting after 1st rounds. Other teams has players on roster in later rounds.

    They need good good scouts, what the hell are they doing?

    Hall is not a leader he’s being outplayed by Tyler Seguin now.

    RNH and Eberle are not taking charge either.

    The whole organization is bad.

    Coaching is the worst.

    Only Nelson is a good coach in OKC.

  • Salty

    While there’s no defending Edmonton’s suspect amateur scouting, and player development, can we please admit that part of the reason the fanbase is always so disappointed with prospects is because WE let the hype train run rampant way too often? Whether it’s calling a late third rounder who has never done anything in particular an all world talent, or hitting the panic button when a second rounder who has had knee injuries hasn’t been able to step in and light things up , or expecting an undrafted kid on a PTO to be the next Martin St. Louis we’re not exactly doing ourselves any favours most of the time. I mean, having slightly more balanced expectations isn’t gonna magically make Edmonton’s track record less terrible or anything, but it’ll hurt less to think about it.

    • Joy S. Lee

      You make a very good point about the hype train running rampant. It reminds me of the Maple Leaf organization which has been doing exactly the same thing to their fans for the past 40+ years. Not a good path to follow.

  • vetinari

    It seems that there is also an issue with the “development” side of the Oiler organization.


    Q. Given that this is obviously a write off of a year, would it not be better to send Draisatl back to the WHL and promote Lander to that spot and give him a 30-40 game look? His cap hit is low and the incumbent hasn’t really produced a lot of points anyways and at least Lander is used to playing against men and has good defensive instincts. What are your thoughts?

    • Salty

      I’ve talked to others about this and it makes complete sense. Never mind the contract ramifications sending LD back down. What’s going to happen with Lander – either he sucks and we wash out hands of him or he shows to be an actual player. And if he’s somewhere in the latter the Oilers decide whether he’s a player they want to keep or some one to trade.

      If he can’t make this team now what’s going to happen if the Oilers get another high end draft pick?

      They have nothing to lose doing this…which is probably why they won’t do something like promote Lander.

      That and he’s probably only EARNED this opportunity so why would the Oilers start rewarding on merit now?

      Oh. And yes. I’m not Lowetide. Sorry.

  • vetinari

    I think you should change your article to ” Seek and Destroy”!

    Giving this coach ( Eakins) any players to develop is tantamount to destroying one’s carreer. If the litmus test for a caoch is development………I contend that every, yes EVERY, player under Eakins has regressed.

    Not one player has improved under Eakins and his retarded systems……..if he has any at all. The OIlers look like a pee-wee team following the puck around, not making any plays……..good to see Eakis systems working.

    The Oilers are a show, within a show under Eakins………well at least we are guranteed a top draft pick that Eakins can develop next year.

    • Salty

      YES !! We’re stuck with Eakins because Mac T won’t admit his error and the net result will be he will ruin every player he gets his hands on. For the sake of the players get rid of this guy, please Mr Katz step in before he completely ruins your investment.

  • Rod the Viking

    From a scouting perspective they have made a number of changes like bringing Bob Green who has had success at bringing in winning players. What the scouts dont have control of is what happen in the team environment what if anything needs to be reviewed. You would think that 6 rings would have identified that, then again he looks at the world through his ring filled glasses. Cut the head off of the monster.

  • YFC Prez

    What a futile organization those Coilers…

    The sad part is that Rexall will be packed again tonight. You suckers deserve the team you support.

    Sharks easily manhandle Oilers little boys & win by 3 goals. 4-1. Without even trying!!!!!


    Eakins sucks huge but MacT will be fired first.

    Move to Seattle already, losers.

  • PutzStew

    MacT has said this many times. This is Hall’s and Eberle’s team. They need to be the leaders show accountability and be the best player whenever they are on the ice. They need to show they care and fight through this adversity. This will help in developing the culture and responsibility for everyone. The other players will follow their leaders.

    When they named Ference captain I was upset with the decision, now I can see why. I am glad Andrew called them out. Neither player have shown they are capable of leading. Development is stalled when your leaders are not accountable.

    • Serious Gord


      Do you think Hall and Eberle are Messier re-incarnated? Do you think they are going to run around the dressing room yelling at people and intimidating them into playing better? THEY certainly don’t think so. After MacTavish gave his tantrum, they were both asked for their reaction. They both said something like “I’m not a rah-rah guy, I try to lead by example”. For them, the “example” is often soft, defensively irresponsible play. Leadership is sadly lacking on the Oilers. YET ANOTHER WEAKNESS.

      • Serious Gord

        Don’t need to be a rah-rah guys or in your face type. steve Yzerman was one of the best non-rah-rah guy. Quiet and lead by example on the ice. We will never really know what happens in the dressing room. We would hope that if they want to lead they need be able to talk to every teammate and have a good relationship with everyone.

    • Chris_Cruise

      This will be Nuge’s team before it’s ever Hall or Eb’s.

      Both those guys are holding Nuge back. Give him real wingers who pass and don’t play a predicable perimeter game and watch the kid FLOURISH!!

      I was in person at MSG when we beat the Rangers and it almost brought a tear to my eye how he put the team on his back and carried the play.

      I also got the Moose’s signature and had a nice little chat with Geno, surprisingly no puns just a really nice personable guy.

      Anyways, it was a great trip capped off with a cool expericne outside the arena. Oh and who do you think came out to see us from the team? ONLY FERENCE.

      He showed right there what a captain should be doing.

      Either way, the keys shouldn’t be handed to Hall & Oats. They’ve already been handed too much without proving anything. (Okay Hall has some good stats but damn is he frustrating to watch).

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nail Yakupov is a fine example of how much the Oilers are invested into the developmental aspect of the game. Hopkins has made progress but that’s all on him and his built in desire to reach his potential. Eberle isn’t getting any better, Yakupov isn’t getting any better. Hall got where his is on his own God given talent. These kids are on their own in regards to their rate of progress. Pick a player, and an argument can be made in any case, Shultz, Petry, Dubnyk, Gagner…yady yada yada.

    With practice time and other restrictions implemented by the NHLPA is any indication. The Oilers struggle mightily in what isn’t a developmentally focused league. Between game days, off days and maintenance days, there’s little time for teams that fall behind and cling to selling that hope and futures BS to their fan base. The NHL is called the show, and as we look at the standings today, the Oilers are the furthest organization from that.

    This is the bed made for all hockey fans in Edmonton under this management group. Well done Mr. President of Hockey Operations. The fruits of your labour are impressive to say the least. The only thing the Oilers know how to do is distribute icetime/throw kids over the boards and hope for the best. Oklahoma included.

    • Salty

      See, this is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. First people won’t give it a rest about how Edmonton finally found their very own Milan Lucic, and oh what a great leader he is, he could be captain material down the line, blahblahblah (looking at you in particular Stauffer), the kid struggles in his first pro season and bam, what a bust, how can the scouts be so bad, how did no one see it coming, we all knew this kid would never be good etc. Locate your towels, pour yourself a shot of calm down juice, and lets get back to calling for Klowe’s head like sensible people, k?

      • vituperative detritus

        My post has nothing to do with anyone else’s opinion. I watched Moroz play live over 50 times with the Oil Kings and there’s no chance he will ever be able to keep up with NHL players.