The Dubnyk Selection

DALLAS - APRIL 02: Goaltender Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Edmonton Oilers at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Devan Dubnyk wasn’t the first player on the radar for the Oilers at the 2004 NHL Draft. He wasn’t the second or third player, either. And it’s easy to forget now, but at the time the Oilers were criticized in a few different places for the selection – because Dubnyk wasn’t considered the best goaltender available at 14th overall.

Guy Flaming’s draft review for Hockey’s Future is a great resource for anyone looking back at the 2004 draft, and he got a great quote from scout Chris McCarthy on the players the Oilers had hoped to grab with the 14th pick:

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“We really wanted (Drew Stafford) but we also thought we might have a shot at (A.J.) Thelen or even (Lauri) Tukonen,” admitted scout Chris McCarthy.


Stafford, a 6’2” winger related to former Oilers trainer Barrie Stafford, was the player that the Oilers coveted, something that was no secret on draft day. He would have been a good selection too; his career took a bit of a downturn this past season, but so far he’s been a quality selection at 13th overall, which is where the Sabres took him (Side point: Stafford’s rumoured to be available and would be a great pick-up for the Oilers). Tukonen and Thelen would have been disastrous picks, but fortunately they went consecutively immediately before Stafford.

The Oilers drafted Dubnyk because they thought him to be the best goaltender in the draft, an opinion that put them out of sync with NHL scouting consensus at the time. Dubnyk was widely thought to be the third best goaltender in the draft. At the time, the title of best goaltender was a toss-up between Al Montoya, who went sixth overall, and Marek Schwarz, who went 17th overall.

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Montoya wasn’t available to the Oilers, but it’s easy to see why the scouts loved him. He had two seasons of starting experience at the University of Michigan by the time his draft year rolled around, and he’d been splendid, recording save percentages of 0.911 and 0.917. He was also a gold medal winner at the World Juniors, where he led Team USA to gold, allowing just eight goals in six games – all wins. Montoya was also named to the all-tournament team. He was projected as a future star, but so far his professional career falls far short of his performance as an amateur.

Marek Schwarz, however, was available. Another star of the international junior circuit, Schwarz had done well for the Czech Republic at both the U-18 and U-20 tournaments; at the U-18 he led the tournament in goals against and save percentage and was named best goaltender. His acrobatic style drew inevitable comparisons to Dominik Hasek, and places like Red Line Report (they ranked him 7th overall) sang his praises.

Dubnyk wasn’t chopped liver, but his resume was less impressive for many. He had size (although it’s worth remembering that the NHL hadn’t yet fallen totally in love with big goaltenders in 2004), and he had a solid performance for a poor team in Kamloops. He’d also played well at the U-18 tournament, although perhaps not as spectacularly as Schwarz. He’d also won the 2004 CHL Scholastic Player of the Year award. But the Oilers loved both his ability and his character, and had him ranked as the best goaltender in the draft, and so they took him despite still having a firm belief that Jeff Deslauriers was going to be an NHL starter.

Six years later, while Dubnyk still hasn’t established himself, the Oilers’ selection doesn’t look so bad. Montoya’s an AHL backup, while Schwarz is putting up good numbers in Europe after a disastrous professional career in North America. Of the first-rounders, only Cory Schneider is really still in the conversation, and he’s not clearly ahead of Dubnyk.

It’s not the outcome anyone would have predicted on draft day – another indicator of how unpredictable goaltender projection can be – but this coming season might finally vindicate the Oilers’ goalie scouts from 2004. They went against the consensus, they drafted the guy they liked, and while the road to this point has been a long one, Dubnyk is in a position where strong performance on his part could transform him from the goalie of the future to the goalie of the present.

It won’t necessarily be easy. Ostensible starter Nikolai Khabibulin may or may not be available to start the year and may or may not be healthy, but he has the confidence of Oilers management. Jeff Deslauriers, two years older, hasn’t been able to make that jump but is still in the conversation. Finally, Martin Gerber’s track record means he must be considered as a competitor for the starting job, even if only as a dark horse.

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The job is up for grabs, and Dubnyk has as good a shot as anyone.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      Let’s say that Khabby is healthy and out of jail. Where do you think each of the four players will lie? Aside from Khabby being the number one, i think it is a bit of a crap shoot to see where the other goalies end up. If DD ends up being back up to Gerber, than i guess he is no better than Montoya, right? We are too saturated with question mark goalies, i want an exclamation point goalie!


      EDIT: Whoops, didn’t mean to have this as a reply to the fist.

  • EasyOil

    It would be nice if Dubnyk turned out for sure. I especially like the fact that he goes against the stereotype of a goalie being a loner and slightly seperate from the rest of the team – by all accounts he seems to be one of the most popular team-mates on any team he plays on, from what I’ve read.

    But boy does the goal situation look a mess right now. I think that JD has paid his dues in the minors and aside from positioning issues has little to gain from minor hockey, and is a capable NHL backup (just my opinion, I know many will disagree), although certainly not at this stage someone I would trust to carry a team if the No. 1 goes down (as evidenced this past season). As such, I would like to see him shipped out to a team in need of a young-ish backup, and have Khapibulin and DD on the team, with Gerber manning the net in OKC and A.N. Other (Perugini, Sorochan or Pitton) as backup.

    Have to wait and see on NK’s trial though I guess to see how it all plays out.

    • Wouldn’t you agree though that positioning problems are major issues and that after countless years of minor hockey and 8 years of professional development, it is unlikely that they will ever be fixed? The guy is good enough to get by on athletic ability in the AHL but in the NHL is stuff just doesn’t cut it. He’s had enough at bats for the team to know what he is capable of so its time to give these at bats to other goalies.

      Honestly, I doubt JDD will ever be anything more than an adequate backup/tweener, and this seems to be the prevailing sentiment among fans. Although, for the record I hope (for his sake) JDD can prove me wrong.

  • ubermiguel

    Interesting that Reddox was picked as the sleeper that year and Schremp was a “steal”. Hindsight tells us that that Wolski, Krejci or Green were the steals.

    Hopefully Dubnyk develops into that solid #1 goalie by the time Khabi’s contract is up.

  • smiliegirl15

    Is Gerber a consideration as a backup to Khabibulin? I don’t remember reading that anywhere. I think he’s destined for the A unless something drastic happens.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I like what I have seen from Double Dee Doobie. He has a cool,calm demeanor that helps keep the rest of the bench feeling as though their goalie is in control. Unlike JDD with the splits and Hasek-like flopping, Dubnyk uses his size to his advantage and I think will be the better goalie in the next year or two.

    Saying all this, I have a sneaking suspicion that the dark horse in the Oiler goalie carosel is Marty Gerber. He has pretty good numbers in his career and might have something to prove, being back in North America. For $550,000 on a two way contract I think it was a solid depth move by Tambi.

  • @ smiliegirl15:

    Gerber’s fourth on the depth chart right now. But if his performance is good there and the Oilers are struggling at the NHL level in net, it’s easy to envision a scenario where he plays in the big leagues.

    • D-Man

      Agreed about Gerber… Good signing to have in the AHL especially if Dubnyk or JD don’t clear waivers. Question to you… I think we can both agree that Khabby is your #1 and Gerber is #4. Who do you put as backup and who (assuming he can clear waivers) as your starter in Oklahoma?

      My thought – Dubnyk is your back up (assuming Khabby is out of jail and healthy). I think he’s positional a better goalie and has a better demeanour. JD is more athletic and will develop into a solid backup but unfortunately, the organization is forced to make a decision now (to avoid another three headed monster). I think the Oil signed JD to the one year deal and for $1.05 million to make his appearance a little less attractive when they attempt to waive him.

  • Good post, Jonathan. Shows how difficult this scouting business is, with the Oil so hot after Tukonen, Thelin. Not an exact science.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that Dubnyk gets 25-30 games next year and that he excels. I think he will do just fine, that what we saw in his final games wasn’t a mirage.

    He looks solid in net, rarely lets in a bad goal, and I’m betting he and Gerber man the nets, with JDD in AHL and Khabibulin injured/jailed.

  • erixon

    From my perspective, a goaltender should never be taken in the first round. Like we have discussed previously you have to wait so long for goalies to develop and they are so variable you are much better to take a chance on a forward – he will be contributing long before the goalie ever will.

    Hopefully DD pans out all that being said.

  • erixon

    Dubnyk and DesLaurier still have to prove they can win at AHL level , before i’d rate either above Gerber . Neither of them did much in the win column in Springfield, or with the big club to be honest .

  • Jerk Store

    I’m not a big follower of the AHL but I got the sense Dubnyk played very well there last year. With the talent (or lack thereof) on that team last year Patrick Roy in his prime may not have had a winning record – and would have asked the president of the team for a trade by Christmas.

  • Shapeman

    The Oilers probably have an agreement with Gerber that if he doesn’t crack the team out of camp he can return to Europe.

    Why would a guy who already has millions in his jeans play in the wasteland of Oklahoma for $150k / year instead of going home to play in Europe where he’s guaranteed to earn more than his AHL salary?

    Gerber has been invited to camp to compete for an NHL job to potentially re-ignite his NHL career. Rightfully, the Oilers are concerned about Khabibulan and have something of a backup plan.

  • Jerk Store


    There aren’t any goalies who would be winning much with those Springfield teams. The one thing you can look at though is the fact that once Dubnyk went up, everything went to hell in Springfield. He kept that team barely afloat until they eventually sunk without him.

    The win isn’t always dependant on the goalies. The guys in front need to score and they need to limit shots… something the Falcons couldn’t do.

  • Jerk Store


    The fact that he could potentially have one last kick at the can is one idea. It’s a lot faster to get back into the NHL from the AHL than it is from overseas in the middle of the year.