You Never Know

This is Jeff Deslauriers as a rookie pro in the uniform of the Edmonton Roadrunners. He was 20, and the year was 04-05. His journey from the 2002 Entry Draft to the starting job at the NHL level in 09-10 is a long and winding road. 

Last night we found out the Oilers signed JDD to a 1-year deal for $1.05 million dollars (per Rishaug’s twitter). Eight long summers after he was drafted, Deslauriers is still looking to establish himself in the NHL. His draft day scouting report looked very promising, and from tough markers Redline Report no less:

  • Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, the biggest surprise of the top-enders, is as big as an octopus and takes up virtually the entire net with his 6-4 frame. In addition, he moves extremely well for a huge man. He has great intangibles with very positive body language and an alert attitude that gives teammates confidence. His rapid rise from nowhere this year gives the impression that he’s got a huge upside if he can continue to make the same type of quantum leap from season-to-season. He isn’t as clean or consistent with the glove as you’d like, plays too deep in net, and doesn’t cut off shoot-ins behind the net well yet.

Early in his minor league career, Deslauriers was a hockey nomad, owing to the Oilers decision to share a minor league team with other NHL teams. It had a major impact on JDD, as he was a seldom used backup at age 21 because the Montreal Canadiens/Edmonton Oilers shared depth chart included Yann Danis, Jaroslav Halak, Olivier Michaud, Ty Conklin and Christobal Huet. Deslauriers managed 666 playing minutes and an .897 save percentage that season, putting him in the middle of the group listed here (Halak was .927).

The following season he was once again on a shared team (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) but found himself playing 40 games and posting a .908 save percentage. Things were looking up, and the next year Edmonton moved to Springfield and once again had a home to call their own.

The season Deslauriers appears to have established himself with the organization was 2007-08. He was the starter in Springfield, posted a team best .912 save percentage in 57 games and in July 2008 won himself a one-way deal from the Edmonton Oilers. Kelly Buchberger, who had coached him in the minors, spoke well of Deslauriers:  "He’s been outstanding for us all year. He’s been there every night. He has to play the same (way he did against Providence) for us to have success and everybody else has to pick up the slack."

I summed up my own feelings on JDD as a prospect in the winter of 2008: However, his junior and minor league seasons rolling out over half a decade tell us he’s a mid-level prospect, properly slotted after the rocket prospects and a few of the flawed men, but well ahead of the muckers, grinders, imps, Coke machines with questionable hands, the Hail Mary’s and the personal favourites.

He didn’t play much anywhere in 2008-09, just 10 games (.901SP) in the NHL and a 5-game conditioning stint to the AHL (.897SP). This past season he was finally a strong contender for a roster spot and won the day with a solid training camp performance. He would backup Nikolai Khabibulin for 2009-10.

Luck and timing conspired to make Jeff Deslauriers the Oilers de facto starting goalie. He began the season as a backup to NK and ended the season being outshone by Devan Dubnyk, but for the heart of the season Deslauriers was the man. The acrobatic, sometimes out of position, suspect glove, man. Here are his numbers:

  • Boxcars: 48gp, 3.26
  • SP: .901
  • WLT: 16-28-4
  • SP behind starter: .008

There were 6 rookie goalies who played over 1,000 minutes in the NHL this season. They were: Rask (Bos) .931; Howard (Det) .924; Varlamov (Was) .909; Gustafsson (Tor) .902; Deslauriers (Edm) .901 and Dubnyk (Edm) .889. JDD played in front of a poor team but you’d be hard pressed to include him among the league’s top rookies at the position. Deslauriers had some outstanding games (3 SO’s tied him with Howard for 2nd among first year G’s) but there were some poor moments. The SP behind the starter total above is for all situations, JDD trailed Khabibulin by a mile at even strength (.905 to the veteran’s .924).

Just as luck was on JDD’s side during the 2009-10 season, it looks like he (or Dubnyk) will be saved by a Nikolai Khabibulin event for at least awhile in 2010-11. The veteran Russian has some issues to resolve before he can be an Oiler again and that likely means both of the young goalies come to training camp this fall.

I would not have placed a bet on Deslauriers playing for the Oilers next season, but things change. To quote the great philosopher Joacquin Andujar – “There is one word that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.’”

  • Lowetide

    Golden Moment: I think the Oilers may keep all three to start the season. NK hasn’t played in the NHL in many months and chances are they’ll have to spot him for awhile.

    I think they eventually deal Deslauriers. Dubnyk isn’t the acrobat but he is consistent and has a better glove.

    The truth is, the Oilers will probably have a different goalie as their starter by the time they’re good enough to contend. I hold out hope for Dubnyk and JDD, but the good young NHL goalies of today (Rask, Halak, etc) were sending signals three years ago in the minors and in Europe.

    DD and JDD didn’t send those signals.

  • erixon

    Sorry pressed Enter before I had finished.

    In essence, I am wondering what would one do with Khabibulin should the younger goalkeepers prove to be the ones to use at the start of the season.

  • Lowetide

    Golden Moment: If I were GM, I’d probably do what ST is doing now. He’s putting off the decision to deal JDD or DD until he knows what he has in NK.

    If I COULD, I’d trade Khabibulin, but I don’t think he has any value at all at this time. Maybe if he plays well this season someone will want him at the deadline. But I doubt it.

  • erixon

    LT -I also believe JDD will get dealt before Dubnyk. They obviously showed by signing him weeks before JDD, that he was more of a priority. I see JDD as being a great backup, but I think what DD has over him is demeanor…. Dubnyk is always calm, and relaxed, focused, while I think JDD has a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him. And DD is obviously younger as well.

  • Lowetide

    erixon: Yeah, agreed. They may have already offered JDD around the league, and might send him to Okla City and risk waivers on him. A million dollar AHL goalie is a luxury many teams can’t afford.

  • Pilgor09

    Lt, i’ve seen nothing from Dubnyk that shows that he is better than JDD. Although i think he is 1 or 2 years younger, we all know goalies are unpredictable and some climax later on in there careers. But at this point JDD is the better goalie.

    People that went after DD that we could have drafted Radulov, Zajac, Wolski, Mike Green, Bolland, and Booth to name a few.

    As a side note, goalies should never be drafted in the 1st round. Brodeur-20th overall, Nabokov-219th overall, Bryzgalov-44th overall, Miller-138th overall, Luongo-4th overall, Quick-72nd overall, Anderson-77th overall, Howard-64th overall, Fluery-1st overall, Kipprusoff-116th overall, Lundqvist-205th overall, Rinne-258th overall, C. Mason-122nd overall, S. Mason-69th overall, Hiller-Undrafted, Theodore-44th overall, Elliot-291st overall, Niemi-Undrafted, Halak-271st overall, Backstrom-Undrafted, Vokoun-226th overall, Roloson-Undrafted, Rask-21st overall, Turco-124th overall, Niittyamki-168th overall, Ward-25th overall, Lieghton-165th overall,

    If you add where each starting goaltender was drafted(i just made the undrafted goalies the last pick in their draft year) and Divide it by the number of teams which have a clear cut #1 is 27, the average starting goaltenders draft position is: 3885 divided by 27= 144th overall

    So u can tell that means that the starting goalies draft position is at an average of the late 4th round. My main point of this was to show that DD was a waste of a draft pick, GOALIES SHOULD NOT BE DRAFTED IN THE FIRST ROUND!!!!

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      How can you say ‘never’ take a goalie in the first round and then list Brodeur and Luongo as first rounders? A franchise goalie is an incredibly tough thing to get through other means.

      • Pilgor09

        Because you can clearly see that the other 25 were late picks. Look at Kari Lethonen, Rick Di peitro, the guys that were taken in lottery spots and never panned out. Now look at the goalies that were drafted in the 5-9th rounds and see how many more goalies there are in that range…..

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      If waivers wasn’t so stupid then there would be no issue with drafting a goalie in the first round. The problem is just as goalies are looking like they are ready to make the step to the NHL, but still need some AHL time they have to clear waivers.

      I wish waivers went back to the whole one-way/two-way that it once was. Not just for goalies, but for players too.

  • Lowetide

    Piglor09: I agree re: draft position, never take a goalie in the first round. They take too long to develop. In fact, I’d argue you should stay away from defensemen unless they bring you a complete skill set.

    Dubnyk’s final games of the 09-10 season suggest he might be getting the hang of things:

    March: 7gp, 2.94 .910
    April: 3gp, 3.25 .914

    Those are some nice numbers.

    You’re right though that Dubnyk has not shown himself to be clearly better than JDD:

    Age 17: DD .917; JDD .900
    Age 18: DD .912; JDD .888
    Age 19: DD .912; JDD .916

    Pro level
    Age 20: DD .921(ECHL); JDD .940 (ECHL)
    Age 21: DD .904 (AHL); JDD .897 (AHL)
    Age 22: DD .896 (AHL); JDD .908 (AHL)
    Age 23: DD .915 (AHL); JDD .912 (AHL)

    We’re not talking about impact prospects here. The season JDD had a .912SP in the AHL, Jaroslav Halak was .929SP.

    The season Dubnyk was .915SP in the AHL, Jonathan Bernier was .936SP.

    • jsoh

      I think you hit the nail on the head. DD is looking like he’s starting to get it.

      After the Olympic break he tore it up especially over his last 8 games where is SV% was .922

      Given the weakness of the Springfield squad it isn’t really fair or accurate to compare Dubnyk to Bernier…

      From all reports it was DD that had Springfield in contention in the early part of the year before the Oilers came along and grabbed all their players.

      I don’t things are as bleak as people seem to believe they are in goal. There are numerous examples of young goalies all of a sudden surfacing as good NHLers…

      IMO Dubnyk will show that he has arrived.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    sure goalies takin in the 1st round might be a gamble but look at fluery and how he’s panned out since being drrafted #1 by pitts, sure it took him 3-4 yrs before he finally”got it” but he has 1 ring already and maybe a couple more somewhere down the line. My point is, this will be JDD 2nd FULL yr in the NHL and DDs 1st give them some time especally with a healthy team in front of them, hell both of them together have to be better than NK

    have the o so coveted late rounders won a cup or two yet?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    LT, it is clear that the market for goalies has come crashing down this year to rock bottom prices. Should the Oilers have made a big play for a known asset/prospect in Ellis and said screw it to JDD and/or NK and/or Dubbie? Makes sense to me. Admit you blew a 1st and 2nd rounder, and make the smart move for tomorrow.

  • “but look at fluery and how he’s panned out”

    2010 – 35th in regular season SV%
    2009 – 7th in regular season SV%

    2008 – 30th in regular season SV%

    2007 – 5th in regular season SV%

    2006 – 41st in regular season SV%

    “have the o so coveted late rounders won a cup or two yet?”

    Last 13 Stanley cup winning goaltenders

    2010 – Niemi Undrafted

    2009 – Fleury 1st OV (1st round)

    2008 – Osgood 54th OV (3rd round)

    2007 – Giguere 13th OV (1st round)

    2006 – Ward 25th OV (1st round)

    2005 – Bettman Undrafted

    2004 – Khabibulin 204th OV (9th round)

    2003 – Brodeur 20th OV (1st round)

    2002 – Hasek 199th OV (10th round)

    2001 – Roy 51st OV (3rd round)

    2000 – Brodeur 20th OV (1st round)

    1999 – Belfor Undrafted

    1998 – Osgood 54th OV (3rd round)

  • 10 good games are not enough for me to decide that DD is better than JDD. Ty Conklin, Mathieu Garon, and Joaquin Gage all had 10 good games. Ok, Gage didnt have 10 good games, but that doesnt change the fact that for most of the year DD looked pretty damn shaky.

    10 games for a goalie just isnt enough. Maybe that tiny stretch of games really was indicative of a turn-around, but I’m not going to hang my hat on it. It’s a shame that the years the two goalies did spend in the AHL were for the lousiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. It would have been nice to plunk these prospects into confidence building/winning situations.

    Oh well, maybe Olivier Roy will get that chance when it’s his turn to play for the farm team.

  • Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but I saw enough sieve-worthy performances from both JDD and DD last year to last a lifetime. Do we really want this confidence shattering duo anywhere near our nets next year with all the unbroken hearted noobs we’ll have on our team?

    Taylor Hall will be a drunken shadow of futility if he has to go through the crushing feeling of victory after victory torn away because of a shaky glove hand or a six foot plus goalie whose nightmare is the “top cheddar” hole.

  • Devon

    It’s clearly an insurance policy with the uncertainty of Khabibulin being available. And of course DD can’t handle the load on his own. I expect they’ll show him off quite a bit at the start till/if Khabibulin gets back. And if he does return he’ll be shopped around if no takers he’ll be sent down and either picked off waivers or let go. Unless DD totally blows it. If he can pick up his game where he left it last year however he’ll be solid guy for this year. But I’m doubtful he’ll ever be a bonafide starter. Cause by the time Khabibulin retires someone younger and better will have likely pass DD by. Right now the most we can expect is a solid back up or 1b guy. He’ll likely never be a true number one.

  • Am I the only person in Edmontonia who likes JDD over DD? His acrobatic style is impressive AND exciting to watch. A beanstalked version of Mike Palmateer! I repeatedly watched in horror as JDD would make the 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes 4th amazing spread eagled flailing save last season while his defence seemed to stand and watch.

    LT’s article suggested that JDD was a bit of a hockey nomad, not getting a real chance to play. He finally got it last season in what is for all intensive purposes HIS FIRST IN THE NHL. Sure, he went down in the butterfly too fast many times. Sure, he got beaten glove side upstairs. But please remember that this was his first time playing against the BEST players in the known universe – people that could hit a puck-sized hole from 30 ft out.

    People claim DD’s advantage is his solid positional play. That remains to be seen really, but my point is this:

    Solid positional play can be learned and developed, but pure athletic acrobatic skill cannot. JDD has the latter. Give him some time and experience and he will learn the former.

    Did I mention that JDD reportedly stayed in Edmonton this off-season?

    EDIT: for rehash about drafting goalies see

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Yes, you are the only person who likes JDD over DD now! 😉 But I do love his acrobatic style over say Rolosons ‘slide over and stand still’ technique. It absolutely KILLS ME to see goalies not moving and just filling the net. I mean, you should see the size (width) of the goalie pants now, they’re twice as wide as the goalie is. But that’s another rant for another day..

      I really do hope he puts it all together because it is very exciting seeing his style of play in net. That said, I love DD’s game, and don’t believe he is just an ‘angles’ goalie, at all. That said, whenever the two are compared that is naturally going to be the comparison drawn because of that difference, but it is unfair to lable DD as a boring, positional goalie. He has great positioning, true, but also has athleticism to make the save when he’s not in position, too.

      JDD’s positioning can be a real problem, true, but I think his consistency is the real issue up to this point. I do agree with you that although this was his second season it was his first real, extended, test in the pros. If you took a count the line would be extremely long of all the goalies that struggled with consistency when they were younger. Hell, even Fuhr had a period when he wrestled with that and was sent down to the minors for just that reason.

      Obviously, Oiler fans were hoping he would level out at some point during last year and were disappointed when he failed to do that. So, the question now is when will he find his consistency, and what is his level of consistent play going to be? I, for one, will be very curious to find out…

  • Having gone through back surgeries I can’t imagine Khabi coming back to be a reliable full-time goaltender this year. His age is a real factor not to mention re-adapting to being a #1 tender any time soon. I think the Oilers have been painted into a corner due to the uncertainty with Khabi and they are still saddled with two unproven goalies.

    Can you see a lottery pick coming in ’11? Itt’s more than a possiblity with these two dudes stopping pucks not to mention the new roster.

  • Muji 狗

    They both suck at this point.
    We’ve spent years watching these kids & hoping they develop into NHLers. So far, they’ve yet to even show that they’re legit backups. What’s the point of being so patient when you can grab reliable 1a starters like Ellis, Mason, (maybe) Niemi, theodore, etc. on the relatively cheap?

    Unless you have a phenom, it’s just not worth drafting/developing goalies.

    • Ducey

      Well, you will also note it is not worth chasing the hot goalie either – they tend to turn back into pumpkins rather fast. The list of consistently good goaltenders is short. Their pricetags are high.

      Anyway, people are getting ahead of themselves. This team is going to finish no higher than 25th – no matter who they have in net. The defence has some nice players in Gilbert and Whitney but the rest are journeyman and projects. It is one of the weakest D corps in the league (more like a D corpse). Up front you have only Penner that you can count on for a decent two way game. Hemsky is coming back from a major injury. Brule is trying to show last year was not a fluke. Horc is trying to return to form. Gagner is trying to take the next step. Cogs is trying to climb out of the elevator shaft. There are no real checkers and a bunch of rookies with little or no pro North American experience. Just for fun throw in a bunch of new coaches.

      The goaltending situation is just a reflection of the state of the team overall. This team is not going anywhere this year. Its hardly the time to be rushing off to the Dollar store for the hottest goalie. In a year or two that guy is likely to be in the trash bin anyway.

    • jsoh

      The Oilers will roll with two backups and a washup in a summer where the market price for decent goalies is as cheap as it ever was.

      If Deslauriers is an insurance policy, he’s covering that worst case scenario where the team climbs out of lottery pick territory.

  • Crackenbury

    We haven’t seen enough of DD to know how good he may be although I like his mental approach to the game. I can’t say the same about JDD. Worse than his non-existent glove hand is his body language on and off the ice after a bad game or stretch of games. He looks like he’s about to start crying half the time. Definitely not the guy this team needs between the pipes.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    It is obvious Tambo loves Khabby but if he knew what he knows now he would probably admit to wanting a muligan on that signing. I think as part of the rebuild the Oilers should decide this year if it is JDD or Dubnyk.

    Plan “A” If health permits and legal issues aside, Kkaby plays 45-50 games and JDD or Dubnyk plays the balance.

    Plan “B” Khabby is in the clink and we somehow get out of his contract (not likely) Dubnyk and JDD split the games down the middle and the one who emerges is now the Oilers number 1 goalie of the future.

    Plan “C” Neither goalie emerges….then what? I think the Oilers should be looking at least 2 years down road at expiring goalie contracts around the league and target the players they see as a fit in our rebuild…. then Khabi is gone and either JDD or Dubnyk are now an experianced back up.