Spend enough time earning your keep in any walk of life and it’s human nature that a bit of “been there, done that” attitude can creep in from time to time. I’m as guilty of it as the next guy. It’s refreshing, then, when somebody or something actually surprises you.

In that regard, Anders Nilsson has been an eye-opener for me so far this season. The towering Swedish stopper has been hotter than a $3 pistol in his last five starts, including his last three as the Edmonton Oilers have put together a three-game winning streak after Sunday’s 4-2 win over Buffalo.

Nilsson’s save percentage in his last five starts has been .941, .977, .950, .920 and .951. Overall, Nilsson sits at .922 with an 8-7-1 record and 2.49 goals-against average in 16 appearances. He’s taken the crease from Cam Talbot, who was supposed to be the more significant acquisition this past off-season, and doesn’t look ready to give it back anytime soon.

I never saw this coming, did you? I asked that question on Twitter Sunday after the win over the Sabres and had a number of people say, sure, they knew how good Nilsson was. Good on you, but there was nothing about Nilsson’s resume that led me to believe he was capable of playing this well when the Oilers plucked him from AK-Bars Kazan of the KHL. Of course, my record on rating goaltenders is dubious.




In 23 appearances over two seasons with the New York Islanders after being drafted 62nd overall in 2009, Nilsson didn’t do much to suggest he’d have a chance to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. His save percentage was .898 and his GAA was 3.05. 

Now 25, Nilsson is just entering the career sweet spot for goaltenders. When I sent out Nilsson’s save percentage Sunday, I got several responses like this one:

That is, of course, absolutely correct. This is a hot streak. We’ve seen this before. There’s no chance, none, Nilsson will continue to put up the numbers we’ve seen from him in these last five starts. The thing is, if the Oilers can get their defensive play sorted out – they’ve been outshot 117-88 during this three-game winning streak – he won’t have to. Yes, that’s a big “if.”

 What the Oiler need from Nilsson to be competitive is a save percentage within three or four points of the .922 he’s at now – anything in the range of .915, which is about the NHL average, or slightly better. That’s do-able, and it’s a level of performance that will force Talbot to step up his game big time if he’s going to take the crease back.

What I like most about Nilsson is that he’s more than just a “blocker” in the standard butterfly mode. Nilsson plays big and uses every inch of his six-foot-five frame, but he’s also active with his hands. He battles for rebounds and loose pucks in his crease. He doesn’t wait for the puck to hit him.



I’ve been really impressed with what we’ve seen of Jujhar Khaira in the five games he’s played and I find myself wondering if he might stick around somehow even after the Oilers get healthy again — when Connor McDavid, Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov return.

Khaira, 21, skates very well for a big body at six-foot-four and 215 pounds, and while it’s a bit much to ask that he play in the top-six for any length of time as he’s doing now, I see a younger, bigger and faster version of Pouliot when I watch Khaira. 

The other thing I hadn’t given much thought to until I saw an item about it in The Journal the other day is that Khaira is just the third player of East Indian descent to play a game in the NHL. That took me back to my days covering the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL in the 1980s. 

Robin Bawa, who played 61 games with Washington, Vancouver, San Jose and Anaheim, was the first and he played on the Blazer teams I covered. Like Khaira, Bawa was a big man who could skate. In his best season with the Blazers, 1986-87, he scored 57-56-113.

That was a different time and, thankfully, all these years later I doubt Khaira will face the same kind of stupid, racist stuff Bawa did as he tries to make his way into the NHL.

“It’s obviously cool hearing the stat and all that, but at the end of the day, I feel like everybody is on the same spectrum,” Khaira said. “You want to make it regardless of race. I put enough pressure on myself as it is.”




Taylor Hall is driving the bus right now. With a goal and an assist against BuffaloSunday, he’s scored 11-17-28 in 28 games. Hall sits seventh in league scoring. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Cain

    I actually called this after pre-season. Not really based on any metrics, but just because it’s the Oilers and usually it’s the unlooked for players who step up. I think I was talking about who is everyone’s reverse Goat, or who is the person who will play their way onto this team to the expectation of no one.

    Draisaitl was a popular pick, but mine Was Nillson because the Oilers were freaking due to go out and pluck that one guy out of nowhere only to find out he’s great. Also, Chi has an excellent track record in identifying goalie talent, and this one was no exception.

    Good on him and Ders, and good on the Oilers for not letting his stellar performances go unrewarded.

    • S cottV

      Can you show us where you made this prediction about Nilsson being great. Chi never developed Nilsson, the Islanders did. He never played in Chic, he went to KHL after Leddy trade.

      • Spydyr

        Sorry , didn’t mean Chi as in Chicago, but as in Chirelli. As for me making Nilsson my pick, ugh, yes, I suppose I can go back and find that article. One sec.

      • Petrolero

        Okay so in the comments section of this article:

        I said the following:

        “I’m going a different route. Instead of picking a guy to succeed who we already think will succeed, I want to pick a different award. I want to pick the guy no one really has any expectations for and will break through in a huge way. Last year for example saw Lander finally emerge. Who will it be this year?

        My pick is Nilsson. He was brought in to push Scrivens, and already he has pushed Scrivens to Bakersfield.

        And while I laud the trade for Talbot, being how this is the Oilers disaster will have to strike somewhere. I predict Nilsson will be the one retaining a starter contract for the Edmonton Oilers by year’s end. And everyone will say, Talbot was terrible for the Oilers, thank God they had Nilsson.”

        Honestly, I’m surprising myself with this prediction that came on October 8.

  • tileguy

    I think it is going to be Lander and Iro sent down when poo and Yak return. When 97 returns will be tough, perhaps Ferrence is more injured than we thought *)

    • camdog

      If they all come back for injury (highly unlikely) they probably have to have on active roster 2 goalies, 8 defensemen and 13 forwards.

      8 Defensemen are Davidson, Gryba, Klefbom, Nurse, Shultz, Sekera, Ference and Fayne. Even though Fayne is playing poorly I don’t think he would clear waivers, that means Reinhardt stay in minors for rest of year if all 8 defensemen stay healthy.

      13 forwards are Draisaitl, Eberle, Gazdic, Hall, Hendrix, Korpikoski, Letestu, RNH, Purcell, Klinkhammer, McDavid, Yak, and Pouloit.

      That means Hamilton, Khairi, Lander, Parkarinen get send down. Only risk of waiver claim is Lander. Might want to waive Klink before Lander. Probably someone would be injured so Lander waiver would probably not happen.

      • tileguy

        Of your send down list only Juju makes me sad, he has the potential o open up ice for our skilled waterbugs. I would also want to look at Klinkhammer some more before making a decision on him.

  • iamlordeyayaya

    RB, you aren’t wrong but…Remember when everyone said the Calgary flames has unsustainable numbers last season and that it wouldn’t last and there’s no way they’d make the playoffs? Good times, good times…

    Oil domination to follow*

    * – If we ever get healthy

  • tileguy

    I don’t see Reinhart getting called up unless injuries start biting our D. It has just about sorted itself out as good as it is going to get with Gryba, Fayne and Davidson rotating as 5-6-7.

          • Petrolero

            For the same reason Drai and Nurse were sent down at the beginning of the year, in spite of performing better than others.

            This is what happens when you have over $14 million in dead weight, especially with a significant player having a NMC. There are only so many roster spots available.

            I’d suggest Davidson’s emergence also made things trickier for Reinhart, but not many people had him pegged above a 6-7 role. That said, I believe Davidson would have to clear waivers, Reinhart does not have too.

            As has been mentioned, he is 21. I’d rather have him play major minutes in the AHL than sitting in the press box. Though I dislike to use MacT terminology, this is very much a developmental year as the GM and Coach assess what they have. Reinhart, in my view, is in the future picture. Let me develop.

            I assume you would be the same person saying he’s a bust if he was playing in the NHL, but playing a minor role (i.e. 10-12 min a game)in the 6/7 position.

          • Randaman

            Pot meet Kettle. Glass houses my friend!

            You act like you’re right every time. Give it up. Reinhart will be just fine. Top 4? No but a solid #5 for a long time.


          • BDH

            I agree. He looks like he’s gonna be a solid 5 for a long time. That’s my point. I’m not ragging on Reinhart, I’m ragging on the deal. Did we not give up too much for a solid #5?? Time will tell, but that was a deep draft and we gave some high quality picks for him

      • Petrolero

        Van we please stop being stupid about Reinhart? The only reason he is down at the farm is because he was the only defender not named nurse who could be sent down without having to clear waivers. He didn’t play himself out of the lineup I thought he was decent and still have high hopes for him.

        The problem is right now there are 10 NHL contracts on the blue line and nikitin is already down t the farm and you don’t want to lose fayne for nothing on the waiver wire, mind you he might go unclaimed.

        The mess on the blue is the inheritance of a reign of stupidity from the previous regime..

        Before the start of next season I can easily see nikitin Schultz ference and fayne out the door via trade buyout and just letting walk.

        Chia might try to add another sekera caliber player if he’s there for the right price but I wouldn’t feel too bad with riding gryba Davidson nurse klefbom sekera and Reinhardt plus one. I don’t encourage the pipe dreams of Seth Jones or the like.

  • freelancer

    Still mind boggling to think that we are currently missing an entire line. Still think we have a ways to go before we can even think about playoffs but I look forward to what this team can do when Pouliot McDavid Yak are back

    • THIS is what freaks me out. The fact that we’re treading water missing an entire scoring line tells me that we’re getting better. I’ve been crapping on our D forever and even I have to admit they’re making progress. The bonus to all this is we’re getting decent goaltending, something we haven’t had for years.

  • tileguy

    It seems to be forgotten that Nillson was extremely sick while with NYI and their farm team. He went un-diagnosed for almost a year, debilitating symptoms, severe weight loss and extreme fatigue. He was eventually diagnosed with gluten intolerance. This (as well as lactose intolerance)are such debilitating illnesses that people tend to overlook them. Luckily he was correctly diagnosed and is now fit and healthy and playing the way he probably always could have. We are extremely lucky to have him and I wish him well, with a long, happy and successful time with the Oilers. Welcome Anders, you have earned this spot by sheer determination and a few very good doctors.

  • Spydyr

    Why is it that when Hall gets run over the OIlers have no push back.

    If you run over most other teams top 10 in the NHL scorer there is a physical response.

    I’m not sure if it is because the Oilers are a bunch of Barbara Ann Scotts or Hall is not liked that much.

    Perhaps it is something entirely different.

  • Spydyr

    I like the way Khaira has been playing just move the puck to one of his skilled linemates and make a beeline to the net.

    I just wish he would smash more bodies but that may come with time and confidence.He must be still walking on eggshells in the NHL.

  • S cottV

    Yeah – I really like this Khaira kid as well.

    Great presence – that really opens up time and space for others.

    Fits in with bigger and harder to play against for sure.

    The hands are a little suspect but it wouldn’t take much improvement – to really have something.

    Maybe just a matter of confidence, but put the kid on some sort of extra stickhandling / shooting – skill development program.

    A little improvement might go a long ways.

  • camdog

    Nilsson was sick in his last year in the NHL. After reading a couple of articles on him recovering from his gluten allergy, playing good in the KHL (and returning to the NHL at still a young 25) and watching him play poised with the puck behind the net in pre season, I had no doubts that the big man would be able to take over as starter on this Edmonton Oilers team.

    Pre season usually doesn’t tell the whole story, but this season for Edmonton I think it told us a lot more than many of us, including myself in respect to LD and Nurse, were willing to accept.

    • S cottV

      I thought Nurse and particularly LD looked great in pre-season.

      You could see that LD was quicker and that he was playing with a lot of intelligence – making good plays in both directions.

      I thought he easily made the hockey club on merit.

      Sending LD and Nurse to Bakersfield – to me, must have been part of some pre-determined agenda – which happens. Sometimes – if you are not careful, you see what you want to see.

      Hockey guys like PC and McClelland get paid big bucks to make the right calls on what to do with players. After a brief stint in Bakersfield, these 2 guys come up and are obviously among the better players on the hockey club? They couldn’t see that possibility, watching these players very closely in the early going?

      Maybe not a huge deal in the long range scheme of things, but – in this short term, could the Oilers have had 3 or 4 more wins with Nurse and LD in the line up from the get go?

      I think so.

      4 more wins and we’re really talking meaningful games right now.

      • '68 Fire Chicken

        I think your close. I believe they were sent down to prove they belong in the NHL.

        Too often we have rushed players. They went down and played well so got the call up.

        I think they played it right. Let them ride a bus for awhile and play in the AHL for peanuts. Only going to make them hungrier to stay in the NHL when called upon.

        See Nikitin and Scrivens with the condors. No chance they are seeing the NHL anytime soon. Scrivens I thought would at least bounce back down there.

        Here’s to hoping we start developing players properly.

      • camdog

        No I shouldn’t be. I just never believed for a minute that Talbot was going to be this teams starter going forward. His situation was too similar to Scrivens for me to buy into the hype and sell. I’ve been around long enough to know how Glen Sather works…

  • A-Mc

    Totally agree on Nillson, it’s hard to believe that he is playing the way he is and I love his death stares………not sure who he is staring at but he looks like he means business.

    Robin I too share your thoughts on Khairia and also remember Robin Bawa…..saw him play Junior in Kamloops and he was considered a skill player there. In the pros he gained a lot of weight ( I’m sure it was all muscle) around 245 and as a result lost a lot of his speed.

    I’m hoping that JJ stays where he is weight wise …….he is starting to settle in to the NHL speed of the game.

    • camdog

      Your recollection is correct. Robin was tall and lanky when he played in New Westminster and Kamloops. He was very quick. Put on a lot of mass as a pro and became more of a grinder/banger who fought some.

  • A-Mc

    Pete and Todd openly talk about the need to have bigger heavier guys in the line up so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see a guy like Khaira stick around on the 3/4 lines. And good for him! He’s doing a great job with what he’s been given.

    My personal opinion is that the duo of Nilsson and Talbot can get it done for us in net over the next couple years while we transition to a playoff team. I’m very curious what either will want for a contract come 2016; as i understand it, talbot cannot negotiate contracts until the new year because of when he was signed to his current deal.

  • bwar

    So if/when the Oiler’s line-up gets completely healthy, is it safe to assume the Oiler’s will attempt to run three scoring lines? Right now we have two lines playing well together (Hall-Draisaitl-Purcell Eberle-RNH-Khaira), with three skilled forwards (Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov) sitting out that we beginning to dominate as a trio before the McDavid injury. Pretty incredible to think about what this team will look like with a healthy roster.

    • A-Mc

      The Islanders did not dress Nilsson at 19. His first NHL games were in 2011-2012 (played 4 games in his 21-22 year old season). The next year he was in the AHL all year. Then in 2013-2014 he played 19 games (23-24 year old season).

  • BDH

    All the Griffin haters go away, D is a tough position to just walk in and dominate, His issue is foot speed. He should and am sure he has talk to Leon and see what he did. There is a night and day Difference with Leons foot speed this year. However, Skating backwards and turning and keeping the speed is so different than just straight line speed,

    Griffin needs to improve the first 3-4 strides and the turn and
    retain speed issue. It will come. The AHL is where he will do this.

    I will take him all day long as a 4-5 D man when this improves.
    He has the smarts , and the Skill. The speed can be fixed.

    He has the same issue Musil has.

  • OilClog

    This guys Terminator stare in the crease is unlike any player in the league right now, it’s insanity.

    As long as he doesn’t lose that absolutely pissed off look on his face I think this guy is going to be a brick wall for a good long time.

  • Cain

    Khaira kept the play alive numerous times last night and nearly scored again. He definitely hasn’t looked out of place. How long is Korpikrapski signed for? He has to go now.

  • 916oiler

    Khaira faster than Pouliot?? I agree that i like what I’ve seen from him so far; every time I’ve noticed him it’s been for a good reason, can’t recall any real bad plays. But is he really faster than Pouliot? Not a knock at all just curious

  • '68 Fire Chicken

    At the same point in his development (D+4) Duncan Keith played 0 NHL games and would not ne in an NHL game until D+5. Even though Willis would say this is a not a fair comparison because Keith was drafted outside of the top 15, I think it way too early to write off Reinhart. I also suggest that if it were not for waiver rules and roster spots he might still be with the Oil.

    • Petrolero

      Agree, I don’t think Reinheart is in anyway part of the D problem, he’s just a victim of bigger contracts ahead of him, and other young blue that need to stick on the team above Reinheart. I eventually see him shifting over to the right side and taking over the role Gryba currently does.

      In the fantasy situation in my head, Schultz is traded at the deadline or even or the summer for little more than making cap room, or maybe he plays the lights out and they send him to the Islanders for Hamonic. Regardless, he’s not here next year. That spot and cap room is used to sign one of the many big name free agents. Fayne, Ference, and Nikitin are also gone, leaving the defence looking like this:

      Nurse – Sekera

      Klefbom – Yandle/Byfuglin/Hamonic/Yannick Webber

      Davidson/ Laleggia – Reinheart


      While still pretty young, this D has size, a ton of mobility, and good veteran presence on the top two lines.

      • camdog

        Most of those D-mean you speak of are too old. Hamonic would be ideal, at 24, but getting a 30 something defense men is not what we need.

        Personally, I would pull the trigger on Klefbom for Hamonic + a pick. That sets our D to look like this.


        This secures the right side, and promotes good competition between Davidson and Reinhart.

        • Serious Gord

          I certainly don’t hate that D, and would even admit it’s an upgrade on what we currently have, but I think the team could really leap forward by upgrading at Schultz’ position rather than at Klefbom’s. Also, Schultz and Klef make roughly the same money, and between those two I think I’d rather have Klef as he looks like a more complete player already.

          Fair point about the older guys, But Yandle is only turning 29, so in his prime. And I think it’s okay to have a 30 year old Buff. He is a vet afterall. With all the kids back there, I don’t think it’s the end of the world to have one 30 year old D.

          Yannick Weber is only 27 though and entering his prime. With 21 points in only 61 games last year, I think he’d be a great pick up.

          • Serious Gord

            Teh thing is you are dreaming if you think Schultz is going to bring in a Hamonic.

            Trade deals might be Klefbom + 2nd round. Schultz would like take a first rounder i the package to make it happen.

            Look at our left D depth.

            Klefbom, Sekera, Nurse, Reinhart, Davidson.

            Look at our right D depth.

            Schultz, Fayne, Gryba

            Where can you take from? For me, we have to trade one of our lefties to get another right D man. If you trade Schultz, then Fayne is still inour top 4. That is a big problem for me. I do not mind Schultz being in our top 4, but he is definitely not a top 2 man.

            Anyway, our defense becomes a lot more balanced if you trade Klefbom for Hamonic. If you look at Sekera and Nurse as our 2 top 4 LD. Then we need to complement them with 2 RD. Hamonic and Schultz fill that gap.

            Then you still have Reinhart, Davidson competing for 3rd pairing LD, and you have Fayne and Gryba competing for 3rd pairing on RD. Which I can live with.

          • Serious Gord

            Meh, both Sekera and Reinheart can / have / and typically play the right side. Not ideal, but if they can do it fine.

            I think my proposal of Schultz for Hamonic relies on two assumptions. Number one, a deal for Hamonic does not get done this year, and Snow waits till the summer. Thus frustrating the hell out of Hamonic, causing him to take it into the media a little more and put pressure on snow to make a deal. That means he’ll have to take less then what he wants or at least less than full value.

            It also assumes Schultz puts up some good numbers this year and raises his profile slightly. The best part about this situation is the player wants to be traded and wants to be traded to Western Canada, which really limits the return Snow is going to get. I don’t think I’m dreaming, and I also don’t think it’s my first choice.

    • Serious Gord

      So let’s not write him off but put him down in the ahl until he’s good and ready.

      The thing about dmen is that their development curve timelines are all over the map. Keith was a late bloomer – he was drafted later as a result. Ditto Weber. And giordano.

      Reinhart was drafted higher and either is experiencing a setback that he will overcome and resume his growth OR he has peaked and isn’t going to get appreciably better. I suspect the latter.

      One things for sure GR is going to get every opportunity to make it – the Lowe Mact mafia will see to that.

  • Johnnydapunk

    In a weird way going with what is seen so far, Nilsson seems to play better when he has a lot of shots which makes him ideal for the Oil as they are happy to oblige. He just plays smart and his awareness in knowing when to hold the puck and keep the play going hasn’t been seen on the Oil in ages.

    One massive difference which shown me that this is a different Oiler organisation compared to the past is that everyone gets a chance to prove themselves, and it’s coming out more and more. I really didn’t expect Scrivens and Nikitin to be in the minors, Davidson and Khaira in the NHL, and I don’t want to be “that guy” but I am by saying that I thought Nilsson would be the shocker this year and it was during the preseason as he stood out as the best goalie in camp. Goalies from Europe don’t always start so good as the angles are different but he came prepared.

    Think the only thing that annoys me in the tiniest way is his mask with the Crossed sticks in the background, that started when he was with the Isles and was a tribute to Billy Smith’s 77/78 mask and it’s stuck with him, it’s like an Oiler goalie having a tribute to Reggie Lemelin on their mask, just seems off.

    I haven’t really thought about the “what if” Nilsson really is going to play like this consistently and the Oil get few wins as a result, that wasn’t considered, neither was being 3 points out of a playoff spot in December. This is all just confusing as…

  • JuicyKillerWhale

    Reinhart will be a top 4 NHL D man at some point. Yes he has some issues now but he has a lot of hockey smarts and he sees the game can improve poor skating with time and effort but you can’t teach hockey instincts, and he has a lot of that.

    • Cain

      I see some similarities between Ben Pouliot and Reinhart. Both were taken No. 4 in their draft year. Pouliot is a useful player, if he is in your bottom 6 forwards (like the Rangers two years ago) you probably have an excellent team. If he is in your top 6, your team has more limitations. Reinhart could be the same type of player on the defence.

  • Petrolero

    In preseason and I saw two of his games it was easy to see Scrvens would be exiting stage right. Ders was a lot more confident and was a lot more technically sound than the spastic Scrivens.

    For Khaira I would like him push Marshmellow Man Purcell for all that PP time he gets. He’s running hot too now but perhaps he sees the kid replacing him. My only worry is that the Kman forgets what got him here tough hits and separating d man from the puck and opening up some ice for the skilled guys ….. Is it a coincidence that Nuge and Ebs have more time and space now? I think not!