Andrew Miller will make his NHL debut tonight at the young age of 26. Miller was not drafted. He played in the USHL at 20, then spent four years at Yale before signing with the Oilers in April of 2013. He scored eight goals and 34 points in 52 games in OKC last year, but he’s emerged as a solid AHL point-producer this season tallying 25 goals and 56 points in 58 games.
He was recalled by the Oilers today, on an emergency basis with injuries to Matt Fraser and Luke Gazdic, and will slide into the lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Miller will undoubtedly be nervous and excited, but his nerves should be calmed by skating alongside former OKC teammates Anton Lander and Ryan Hamilton. We’ve seen numerous players make their NHL debut with the Oilers during the past nine seasons, and many have had success right away.
Jordan Eberle had a goal, turned out to be TSN’s goal of the year, and an assist in his NHL debut against the Flames.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made his debut vs. the Penguins and tied the game late in the third period.
Teemu Hartikainen picked up an assist against in his first game vs. the Coyotes.
Linus Omark tallied an assist and scored his famous SO goal vs. the Lightning in his NHL debut.
Taylor Fedun scored in his first two NHL games vs. the Panthers and then Tampa Bay.
Luke Gazdic scored on his first NHL shift against the Jets.
Oscar Klefbom had an assist in his first game vs. Minnesota.
Others have scored in their second game, Nail Yakupov, Iiro Pakarinen and Justin Schultz amongst others, so I won’t be surprised if Miller tallies a point tonight.
Amidst another lost season, it is always exciting watching a player reach his goal of playing in the NHL. I’m sure he and his family will enjoy it.
Miller is the only change up front. The top line of Eberle/RNH/Pouliot is on fire, especially Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. Eberle has 13 goals and 35 points in his last 33 games, including 11 in his last five games. Nugent-Hopkins has ten points in his last five games, and 25 in his last 31 games.
Yakupov has 6-7-13 in his last 16 games, while Roy and Lander have also chipped in nicely.
Nikita Nikitin returns to the lineup after missing 21 games. He’ll take Keith Aulie’s spot beside Andrew Ference.
Ben Scrivens gets his fifth consecutive start.
- Nikitin is an NHL defenceman, but he is not a top-four D-man, and just because his GM said he was doesn’t mean we should expect him to play like one. He is overpaid, but that isn’t his fault. I think Nikitin can help in your third pairing, but his contract and GM’s public comments will put a huge bullseye on his back. I’ve seen it before with Shawn Horcoff. I have no problem critiquing Nikitin’s game, he looked dreadfully slow early this season, but don’t pile on him because of his contract and unrealistic expectations from the organization.
- Eberle has moved up to 32nd in league scoring with 55 points. He likely will finish in the top-30 for the third time in his career. He’s a lock to play for Canada at the World Championships, and I think he’s proven to his naysayers, although he’s done it before, that he can produce without Taylor Hall.
- Benoit Pouliot has tied his career high in goals, 16, despite only playing 46 games. He has been a solid free agent signing. I’ll admit I was skeptical when he signed, but so far he has looked very good. He is a good complement to Eberle and RNH, and when Hall returns I’d keep Pouliot on the top line.
- Lander has five goals in his last nine games. He has filled Shawn Horcoff’s role from 2013 on the 1st PP, standing in front of the net, very well. I’d like to see what he could do 5×5 with some NHL wingers.
- Nazem Kadri has been suspended four games for his head shot on Matt Fraser. Not a surprise. He was a repeat offender and it was obvious contact to the head.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Columbus may not be in the playoff hunt, but their next few games will certainly have an impact on the playoff race. Both Vancouver and Calgary are either a) jockeying for position or; b) trying to squeak their way into the playoffs, so these will be important games.
Up first are the Oilers, who are tied for 2nd last with 50 points, and just three points behind the Sabres for last place.
Edmonton is coming off an impressive win against the Maple Leafs, however, they’ve lost eight of 10, and are still without their best player in Taylor Hall.
They certainly aren’t without skill, though, as they are led by Jordan Eberle (11 points in his last five) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10 points in his last five), who both enter tonight’s game red hot.
Columbus will try to counter-act that firepower with some of their own. Obviously Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno are the key cogs, but Scott Hartnell has scored in four consecutive games (five goals in that span) while Marko Dano has four points in his last three – including two against Edmonton – playing alongside Alex Wennberg, who has also been good.
Neither of these teams are particularly good defensively, and the goaltending matchup looks to be Curtis McElhinney vs either Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth, both of whom have sub .900SV%, so there could be plenty of offense in this one.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t won two straight since January 17th and 20th vs. Florida and Washington (both in the SO). They haven’t won two consecutive games in regulation since November 7th and 9th vs. Buffalo and NYR. They end their regulation winning drought with a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 19-4-1 at home vs. Columbus. They haven’t lost at Rexall since January 10th, 2010. Eberle has 15 points in 13 career games, while RNH has 14 points in nine games. They continue their hot-streak producing two points each.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Martin Marincin ends his goal scoring drought. He scores his first NHL goal (SO aren’t official goals) in his 74th NHL game. Miller gets an assist.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 70.0: Sharing the pain
- GDB 69.0: ELPH
- GDB 68.0: Rested and ready
- Fact, Fiction and update on Hall
- GDB 67.0: Patience pays off
- GDB 65.0: Build like the Blackhawks
- Shaping the defence