Dubnyk vs. Deslauriers: How Close Is It?

Jonathan Willis
September 25 2010 03:11PM

DALLAS - APRIL 02: Goaltender Devan Dubnyk #40 and Dean Arsene #8 of the Edmonton Oilers dive for the puck against Loui Eriksson #21 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Leaving aside from the approximately one in five members of the Nation who would love to see the Tri-City Storm’s goaltender coach suit up as Nikolai Khabibulin’s backup this season, the poll on the right shows a more than 3:1 lead for Devan Dubnyk as backup goaltender over Jeff Deslauriers.

I agree that Dubnyk is the better choice, but I’m surprised to see things so lopsided and I think it would be a mistake to suggest that Dubnyk is a vastly superior prospect to last season’s de facto starter.

A look back over the developmental years of the two goaltenders is an interesting exercise, simply because there is so little to separate them. Deslauriers is almost exactly two years older than Dubnyk, and so for a fair comparison we need to compare earlier seasons of his with those of Dubnyk – for example, Dubnyk’s 2009-10 season would correspond to Deslauriers’ 2007-08 season, as both goaltenders were 23 at the time.

As a 23-year old, Dubnyk was a strong AHL goaltender on a bad team – as witnessed by his 0.915 SV% and the way he towered over the other goaltenders - but a little over his head in the NHL, where his numbers were not very good. As it happens, at 23 Jeff Deslauriers didn’t get an opportunity to play NHL hockey, but like Dubnyk he was a strong AHL goaltender on a bad team – as witnessed by his 0.912 SV% and the way he towered over the other goaltenders on the team.

At 22, the similarities continue. Both goaltenders got their first chance to be the starters in the AHL. The numbers – 0.908 SV% vs. 0.906 SV% - give Deslauriers a slight edge, but I’d suggest Dubnyk was slightly better, since Deslauriers’ team was quite capable while Dubnyk’s was abysmal. Even so, it would be difficult to definitively put one goaltender ahead of the other, given their respective performances.

The trends continue, year by year. From the ages of 20 to 21, both goaltenders split time between the ECHL and AHL. Both were strong ECHL goaltenders, and both struggled in the AHL. Prior to that, each spent their draft year and the two subsequent seasons in junior: Dubnyk in the WHL, and Deslauriers in the QMJHL. Dubnyk was consistently good, year over year, for an at best middling Kamloops team, while Deslauriers had a brilliant draft year and a brilliant third year to bookend a lousy second season in the QMJHL. Again, not much to choose between the two.

Both goaltenders were highly regarded in their draft years; Deslauriers was generally the consensus “best goaltender” in pre-draft publications but slipped on draft day, while Dubnyk went ahead of at least one goaltender (Marek Schwarz) who was viewed as a better prospect by most draft followers.

With all of that said, I would choose Dubnyk over Deslauriers based on what we know now, simply because Dubnyk is younger. Jeff Deslauriers has had two seasons to develop from an AHL starter to an NHL backup, and he hasn’t been able to get a firm grip on the latter job. A number of things could still happen: Deslauriers could be a late-bloomer who suddenly emerges as a viable NHL goalie, Dubnyk’s development could stall, injuries could play a role, etc. Goaltending career paths are ugly things to predict, and all the expertise of NHL teams hasn’t kept unknowns like Tim Thomas from winning the Vezina while can’t-miss prospects like Al Montoya have shuffled off to obscurity.

Here though, at least for me, the crux of the argument is this: while Deslauriers and Dubnyk have similar career curves, there’s a greater likelihood of development from Dubnyk because he’s younger. Both goaltenders hope to make the jump from AHL starter to NHL backup, but time is still on Dubnyk’s side and that simply isn’t the case for Jeff Deslauriers.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 andrewmk20
September 26 2010, 01:12PM
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Olivier Roy is in a good situation in Edm. He played out his junior career and now has a much more stable system to develop in. The lack of farm teams pretty much destroyed all of the Oilers prospects during the 05-07 years. DD and JDD development was definitely stunted. But I'd have to say that if DD is our future backup give him a lot of games in the AHL with a decent club, which it looks like the Barons will be this year, and let JDD play out the year here to see if he earns another year. If not then we let him walk and DD came come in next season with a little more experience/confidence from the AHL. Being patient is key look at LA and Bernier and then the Canadiens/Columbus with Price/Mason. Rushing DD up here isn't necessary.

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#52 goalie critic53
September 26 2010, 01:42PM
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Lets keep in mind that jdd had not one but two of tsn's top ten saves of the year...dd had zero...c'mon guys... one more thing they are relativly the same size so that also makes jdd a "Big" goalie...

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#53 RossCreekNation
September 26 2010, 02:30PM
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I may be wrong, but didn't Dubnyk's first 10 or so games come after riding the pine for an extended period of time (ie: rusty)? After he went back down to Springfield for the Olympic break, he came back up without the rust and played quite a bit better.

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#54 quicksilver ballet
September 26 2010, 03:31PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Via @KatieStrangNYI...

BREAKING: According to source, #Isles defenseman Mark Streit is out for six months

http://tinyurl.com/2cbtqa7

Time to start playing roulette with Sheldon now. Interested teams may be open to Souray and (insert player name here) in exchange for a salary dump player and a first round pick. We just someone like Chara to go down in the next couple weeks to turn up the heat on the Souray issue. Souray and Jacques for a salary dump and their first round pick this coming summer.

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#55 RossCreekNation
September 26 2010, 03:46PM
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@quicksilver ballet

What?! If they haven't been able to get ANYTHING for Souray to this point, how are they gonna get a 1st by throwing Jacques in? Souray for another team's salary dump (large or small)... leave it at that.

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#56 Quicksilver ballet
September 26 2010, 04:10PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

What?! If they haven't been able to get ANYTHING for Souray to this point, how are they gonna get a 1st by throwing Jacques in? Souray for another team's salary dump (large or small)... leave it at that.

Souray is the best defenseman available on the market right now. Tambellini just needs a little competition for Sourays services now to drive up the asking price. I don't put much weight in his clearing waivers 6 weeks ago,we shouldn't be surprised there wasn't anybody willing to take that cap hit without having the opportunity to send something back the other way. Souray has value, it's just a matter of who needs him the most now.

If another team loses a top 3 d'man in the next couple weeks the more likely it is that price will increase. Now that Streit has gone down we need someone else to go down to force one teams hand or the other. Come November we could be surprised at what he fetches in return.

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#57 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 26 2010, 04:25PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Souray is the best defenseman available on the market right now. Tambellini just needs a little competition for Sourays services now to drive up the asking price. I don't put much weight in his clearing waivers 6 weeks ago,we shouldn't be surprised there wasn't anybody willing to take that cap hit without having the opportunity to send something back the other way. Souray has value, it's just a matter of who needs him the most now.

If another team loses a top 3 d'man in the next couple weeks the more likely it is that price will increase. Now that Streit has gone down we need someone else to go down to force one teams hand or the other. Come November we could be surprised at what he fetches in return.

Common man, this is embarrassing ...

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#58 Quicksilver ballet
September 27 2010, 09:24AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Common man, this is embarrassing ...

Steve just needs one team who's hand is forced with one of their top 3 d'men on the LTIR, i don't think it's all that much of a stretch. I may have over estimated Sourays value a little in what was a buyers market, things could change if someone else goes down, 2 teams seeking his services could drive the price up.... i guess we'll all find out what he's worth in the not to distant future.

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#59 Bandwagon jumper
September 27 2010, 02:54PM
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You mean Souray might yield more than a bag of pucks?

We can only hope.

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