After two years of iffy goaltending at the NHL level, the Edmonton Oilers have been blessed with strong performances from both Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk. It’s not a situation unique to the NHL team, however – at every level, Oilers’ goalies are getting the job done.
Given the questions the Oilers faced in net at the major league level, they opted to bring in two veterans to play in Oklahoma City. Thirty-year old veteran Yann Danis was brought back to North America after a season in Russia, and his resume was impeccable: 49 NHL games and 186 games in the AHL with good numbers, and three years as a superb college starter prior to that. As with Martin Gerber the year prior, the Oilers spent some money and got themselves a high-quality third-string goaltender.
Behind Danis, the once highly-touted David Leneveu was brought in as backup. Like Danis, the 28-year old came from a college background (his strong work with Cornell made him a second-round pick back in 2002) and had both NHL (22 games) and AHL (273 games) experience. His AHL numbers the last two seasons weren’t overly impressive, but he had been a strong option previously and was a respectable choice for the AHL backup role.
In the early going, the two have worked together to form one of the most impressive duos in the AHL.
Among goalies with at least 10 games played, Yann Danis ranks second in the AHL with a 0.930 SV%, a hair behind Ben Bishop, the third-stringer in St. Louis. Leneveu, with a 0.922 SV% through seven games, isn’t far behind him. It’s worth noting once again how early it is in the season, but there’s little reason to believe that this isn’t Danis’ true talent level, and if he gets a chance he’ll undoubtedly fill in nicely in the NHL. It’s also a nice bounce-back year for Leneveu, who was playing in Austria just two seasons ago.
The veteran tandem in the AHL has allowed the Oilers to start Olivier Roy in the ECHL, where he was just named Goaltender of the Week. His win/loss record on the season isn’t stellar but he does have a 0.925 SV% – in the same range as Devan Dubnyk, who posted a 0.921 SV% in the ECHL in his first professional season. It’s a good place for the rookie pro to be.
It would have been easy for the Oilers to start Roy in the AHL, on the grounds that as a potential future starter he should be developing in a tougher league. It would also have been a mistake – as we’ve seen in previous seasons, injury and poor play can turn a team’s goaltending situation upside down overnight. One recalled goaltender and one struggling prospect, and all of a sudden the farm team can’t win games because they’re playing goalies in roles they simply aren’t ready for.
As it stands, the Oilers are in good shape. Roy’s ECHL performance gives us confidence that he could handle AHL work if needed to, and the AHL team could run a relatively competent tandem even if deprived of their best goalie. Additionally, should one of the Oilers two starters go down to injury, Yann Danis stands ready as an option capable of playing games.
It’s a good place to be, and the Oilers have other options. Tyler Bunz (recently injured while on the bench) had a great training camp and has established himself as a prospect to watch. Samu Perhonen’s not having a great year, but he’s young and is a legitimate prospect, and Frans Tuohimaa is also in the system.