There are four spots up for grabs when it comes to goaltending in the Edmonton Oilers’ minor-league system.
Right now, the Oilers have four goalies to fill those spots, but how all the netminding dominoes fall is an intriguing situation. One decision that will play a large part in the direction the goalies go will be the back-up position in Edmonton.
Cam Talbot wasn’t acquired to ride shotgun to anyone, so he’s the No. 1 in Oil Country. Now it gets interesting because Ben Scrivens is most likely the No. 2 but the Oilers’ signing of former New York Islanders prospect Anders Nilsson makes things a little more cluttered.
One of Scrivens and Nilsson is going to take the back-up role with the Oilers and the other is going to get put on waivers. If they’re claimed by another NHL team, then we’ll bid them adieu. If they go unclaimed, one will be headed to Bakersfield unless Nilsson has an out in his contract to return to the KHL.
In California, it’s a certainty that Laurent Brossoit will be the top puckstopper with the Condors. The Oilers need to find out if their lone true goaltending prospect is a candidate for future NHL work or if he’s going to be a career minor-leaguer. To figure it all out, Brossoit needs to get 40 to 45 starts with the Condors.
When the Oilers officially moved their AHL affiliate to Bakersfield, the Condors faithful rejoiced in the fact that ‘LB’ was coming back. Brossoit played in ECHL Bakersfield in 2013-14 and racked up 24 wins along with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .923 save-percentage. A year ago in Oklahoma City, Brossoit went 25-22-4 during the regular and even slipped into action with the Oilers.
Come playoff time, however, it was Richard Bachman who earned the decisive verdicts in five of the Barons’ six wins.
There’s no time like the present (or fast-approaching present of the 2015-16 season) for Brossoit to solidify his future as a goalie for the big club.
If Nilsson doesn’t beat out Scrivens and does come to California, he’ll be looking to redeem himself on North American ice. The 25-year-old – the oldest of the Oiler goalie prospects – racked up 20 wins for the KHL’s Ak-Bars Kazan with an impressive 1.71 GAA and .936 SVP. But prior to his stint Russia, Nilsson wasn’t progressing as the Islanders had hoped.
A third-round pick in 2009, Nilsson’s 2013-14 campaign set in motion his departure from New York to Russia. Nilsson went 8-7-2 in the Islanders lineup with a lofty 3.11 GAA and .896 SVP. His numbers on the farm with Bridgeport were just as iffy with a 12-14-2 mark, a 2.81 GAA and .901 SVP.
If Nilsson bails on the organization, then one of recent free-agent pickup Eetu Laurikainen or cancer survivor Ty Rimmer will be on the Condors’ bench. Whoever doesn’t get that assignment will get relegated from Bakersfield down to Norfolk.
Laurikainen probably has the inside track since he was actively sought out in the off-season. The former Swift Current Bronco, who moved from Finland to Saskatchewan for the 2012-13 season, spent last season in the Finnish Elite League going 17-10-9 in his first pro campaign. Laurikainen got accustomed to the North American ice in Swift Current and clearly he adapted well with years of 2.39/2.90 GAA and .922/.914 SVP. He had a dynamic, albeit short, playoff run with the Broncos in his final year, sporting a 2.17 and .941.
Rimmer is the feel-good story of the bunch because it’s been a hard road from the jump.
The Edmonton native had WHL stops in Brandon, Prince George, Tri-City, and Lethbridge. After turning pro, he had half a cup of coffee with both Manchester and Oklahoma City before settling into the 2013-14 campaign with the Central League’s Quad City Mallards. Last season, Rimmer split time in ECHL Bakersfield with Frans Tuohimaa. Injuries to an already porous defence led to some ugly numbers – a record of 8-11-3, a 3.20 GAA and .889 save-percentage. Late in the year, Rimmer left the club for personal reasons which were later revealed to be treatment for testicular cancer. The surgery was a success and Rimmer was re-signed to a one-year deal in May.
The Oilers have missed badly when it comes to drafting goaltenders and they’ve been paying the price for years. The cupboard is still pretty bare and let’s not forget Brossoit was a Calgary Flames draft pick. Even the last three drafted goalies – Miroslav Svoboda, Zach Nagelvoort, and Keven Bouchard – barely register as long-range prospects.
Since 2001 and with rare exceptions, the Oilers goaltending draft selections have been a dog’s breakfast and that’s being very generous:
2001 – Jussi Markkanen (5th round, Tappara, Finland) – over 100 NHL games including short stint as playoff hero during Oilers’ 2006 Cup run
2002 – Jeff Deslauriers (2nd round, Chicoutimi, QMJHL) 58 games with Oilers, 4 with Anaheim Ducks, last season with KHL’s Riga Dynamo
2002 – Glenn Fisher (5th round, Fort Saskatchewan, AJHL) 4 AHL games, 3 ECHL seasons
2004 – Devan Dubnyk (1st round, Kamloops, WHL) 231 NHL games, left Oilers and became Vezina Trophy candidate with Minnesota
2004 – Bjorn Bjurling (9th round, Djurgardens, Swedish Elite) No games in North American pro leagues
2006 – Bryan Pitton (5th round, Brampton, OHL) 17 AHL games, 3 ECHL seasons and 1 in England
2009 – Olivier Roy (5th round, Cape Breton, QMJHL) 41 AHL games, traded to Calgary in deal that moved Laurent Brossoit to Oilers
2010 – Tyler Bunz (5th round, Medicine Hat, WHL) off-ice issues, 8 AHL games and 20 minutes with Oilers as emergency backup
2011 – Samu Perhonen (3rd round, JYP, Finland) went back to Europe after 8 games in USHL, spent last year in Finnish Elite League
2011 – Frans Tuohimaa (7th round, Jokerit, Finland) 4 AHL games, 33 in ECHL, signed for next season in Sweden
Going with a scenario of Scrivens staying in Edmonton and Nilsson accepting a demotion to Bakersfield in order to re-establish himself in North America, then it’s Nilsson and Brossoit with the Condors. If that comes about, Brossoit will certainly get pushed for the No. 1 job. And it’s frankly a better scenario for Laurikainen who would then get the bulk of the starts in Norfolk instead of riding pine behind Brossoit.
If Nilsson is demoted and gets claimed or bolts for the KHL, it is probably better for Brossoit to be backed up by a returning and upgraded Rimmer, still leaving Laurikainen the starter’s spot with the Admirals.
Brossoit and Rimmer are well-acquainted with each other…
The Oilers could grab one of the remaining unrestricted free agents out there prior to training camp. The best of the bunch who’d be willing to spend some time in the minors (forget Ray Emery, Peter Budaj or *shudder* Ilya Bryzagalov) are:
- David Leggio, Arizona (2.41/.908 Portland-AHL)
- Mike Lee, Arizona (3.94/.895 Gwinnett-ECHL)
- Ryan Faragher, Anaheim (2.57/.901 Norfolk-AHL)
- Michael Houser, Florida (2.83/.900 San Antonio-AHL)
- Brad Thiessen, Calgary (3.11/.902 Adirondack-AHL)
Packing Up: Edmonton native Peter Quenneville, who had 75 points with the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, has reportedly signed in Finland for the upcoming season. A seventh-round pick of Columbus’s in 2013, Quenneville’s uncle is Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk and he is second cousin to Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville.