Reports out of Europe suggest that the Oilers could be interested in 27-year old goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum, who spent last season in the Swedish Elite League. Who is he, and would he be a good signing for the Oilers?
Via Bob Stauffer, here’s the report from the Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet. Using Google Translate, the key points seem to be as follow:
- Starkbaum has an out-clause in his contract that allows him to pursue NHL opportunities
- Agent Patrick Pilloni says there are NHL teams interested in Starkbaum for 2013-14
- The Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the clubs interested
A Unique Résumé
There isn’t a goaltender in the NHL with Starkbaum’s CV. To begin with, he’s both Austrian-born and Austrian-trained – there are currently three Austrians in the NHL (Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and Andreas Nodl) and all of them came over to play hockey in North America before they were drafted. Among goaltenders, in league history only one Austrian – Reinhard Divis, who was briefly lit up in St. Louis around the time of the second Bettman lockout – has ever played NHL hockey.
Like Divis, Starkbaum came up through the Austrian system and then made the jump to Sweden, where he caught the attention of NHL teams. Unlike Divis, however, Starkbaum was immediately an exceptional starter in the Elitserien.
Starkbaum worked his way up the Austrian system and emerged as a quality backup option for Villacher SV in the top Austrian league around the age of 22. At 24, he took over the starting role in that league, recording a 0.923 save percentage in his debut season as starter and a 0.936 save percentage over 48 games at the age of 26. That latter performance earned him a contract with Sweden’s famous MODO, and he was exceptional there, too, posting a 0.933 save percentage (good for third in that league). He had a rough few games in the playoffs, however, and found himself replaced by Sabres draft pick Linus Ullmark between the pipes.
Where He Might Fit
Starkbaum’s regular season performance in the Swedish Elite League is enough to suggest he may be ready for work as an NHL backup, but assuming he’s ready for the role would be a significant risk for the Oilers organization.
A safer play would be to bring Starkbaum in for the third-string role currently held by Yann Danis and see how he adjusts to playing in North America; sometimes good European goaltenders hit the ground running and sometimes they need time to adapt. If Starkbaum’s success in Sweden translates immediately, he’s the kind of player who could force his way on to the NHL roster in relatively short order.
UPDATE. The suggestion that Starkbaum should start in the minors fits with the view of player agent Gunnar Svensson, who saw quite a bit of Starkbaum this season:
@jonathanwillis If you ask me Jonathan – he´s not ready for the NHL. I saw him mostly of his games 12-13. He need minum 1 season in AHL.
— Gunnar Svensson (@Gunnar56) May 28, 2013
Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.
Recently around the Nation Network
As both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are likely looking for a similar player out of the draft (and because the two teams pick back-to-back), Kent Wilson’s series on first-round targets is of interest for Oilers fans. From First Round Targets – Elias Lindholm:
Aside from Sean Monahan, Elitersen rookie Elias Lindholm is perhaps the Flames most likely choice at 6th overall this coming June. Like Monahan and Aleksandr Barkov, Lindholm is a center with a offensive capabilities and an advanced two-way game. So, like the two targets we have already profiled, Lindholm ticks a lot of the organization’s boxes.
Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here: