To understate, it’s been awhile since the Edmonton Oilers drafted and developed a goaltender who turned out to actually be worth the wait. That would be Devan Dubnyk, who was taken 14th overall in 2004, navigated the minefield that was Edmonton’s minor league maze, graduated to the Oilers’ crease on a bad team during the Decade of Darkness, was cut loose after one terrible season when the wheels fell off and then landed on his feet rather nicely in the blue paint with the Minnesota Wild.
While it’ll be years before we know if Stuart Skinner, who was selected 78th overall from the Lethbridge Hurricanes by the Oilers in the 2017 Entry Draft, might take a run at the crease occupied now by Cam Talbot, there’s not much doubt the lanky Edmonton kid is grabbing eyeballs now with the way he’s been performing for the Swift Current Broncos. Skinner’s latest performance came Monday with 25 saves in a 6-0 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors in their WHL playoff series.
Traded from Lethbridge to Swift Current midway through this season, Skinner shutout the Warriors for the third time Monday, finishing the series with a .943 save percentage and a 1.56 goals-against-average. Through 14 games this post-season, Skinner has an 8-6 record with a .934 and a 2.07 GAA. Suffice to say, Skinner is hotter than a $3 pistol right now as he prepares to face his former team, the Hurricanes, in the next series.
The Oilers thought enough of Skinner to move up in the third round to get him. Skinner, who was a teammate of Tyler Benson with the South Side Athletic Club in Edmonton, is a combination of good size and athletic ability. One snippet from a pre-draft report of Skinner reads as follows: “For someone of his size, Skinner’s athleticism separates him from other top NHL goalie prospects. A butterfly style stopper, Skinner’s leg pads cover large portions of the net and he is able to repeat the movement several times in a row. From post-to-post, Skinner hardly lumbers. He is quick and nimble enough to maintain vision of the puck, post-to-post, when he’s burdened by a crowd in the crease.”
No matter how the rest of the WHL playoffs unfold, Skinner won’t have a say in what happens in the Oilers’ crease next year or the year after that, but from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen he’s a bonafide Grade A prospect — there hasn’t exactly been a surplus of those in Edmonton’s system for as long as I can remember. Right now, Skinner is a going concern in the blue paint with the Broncos and is worth keeping an eye on. Down the road? Stay tuned.
As was the case with the Oilers, the Calgary Flames fell well short of expectations this season and missed the playoffs after a promising 2016-17. That failure cost head coach Glen Gulutzan and assistants Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard their jobs today. After putting up a 45-33-4 record for 94 points last season, the Flames dropped to 37-35-10 for 84 points. The Oilers meanwhile, finished 36-40-6 for 78 points, leaving them 25 points off their 2016-17 record of 47-26-9.
It’s a fine line that coaches walk. Bob Hartley got fired in Calgary largely because he was a hard-nosed old school bench boss who was seen by many as being too tough on the players. Gulutzan, who is considered player-friendly as a coach can get and a good communicator, couldn’t get the Flames back in the post-season in his second year and now he’s out of work. Gulutzan is a good man who will bounce back. While I imagine we’ll see a coaching move here in coming days, my best guess is it won’t involve an exit by Todd McLellan.
AND . . .
While celebrations of life were being held at Rogers Place today for Humboldt Broncos Jaxon Joseph, Logan Hunter, Parker Tobin and Stephen Wack, Connor McDavid was at Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt to pay his respects to the 16 Bronco team members who died in the April 6 crash and to talk with students. McDavid, Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly and junior hockey executive Sherry Bassin were part of a group that made the trip.