If the playoffs started tomorrow, Mikko Koskinen would have the edge to be the Edmonton Oilers starting goalie.
So far this season, Koskinen, 31, has put up respectable numbers splitting time with veteran Mike Smith in a 1a, 1b situation. Despite being the higher-paid of the tandem, it’s Smith who’s actually played more games so far this season (39 and 38 respectively). But while Smith had struggled recently before the pause, Koskinen seemed to be just hitting his stride.
When Koskinen was signed to his contract, there were some questions about his ability to hold a starting NHL job due to his lack of experience in the league. But while he’s hit some rough patches, including a tough stretch in December, he rattled off a string of games where he made 40+ saves in the last three games he started in before the season was paused.
Koskinen joined the Oilers at the start of the 2018-19 season when he signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal in May 2018. Koskinen was drafted 31st overall by the New York Islanders, but only played 4 games with the team in 2010-11. Between then and signing with Edmonton, Koskinen split time in the ECHL and AHL, before heading to Europe to play in Finland and in Russia. After only 27 games with the Oilers, he was signed to a three-year, $4.5 million per year contract (or 5.5 per cent of the cap) with trade protection by former GM Peter Chiarelli just 24 hours before he was fired by the team.
In 38 games so far, Koskinen is tied for 15th in the league in save percentage with a 0.917, and 26th in GAA with a 2.75. I wanted to see how Koskinen stacked up against the other 15 goalies in the Pacific Division (thanks Evolving Hockey) who have played at least 21 games this season. You can follow the link to take a look at the table yourself if you want to see the full breakdown of this comparison.
Against his rivals in the Pacific, Koskinen ranked third in goals saved above expected, and seventh in expected goals against while playing the eighth most minutes of the bunch. For the most part though, Koskinen finds himself in the middle of the pack in most stats, but also ranks consistently above Smith.
It’s got to be tough as a goalie to try to maintain any momentum after this long of a pause, but the Oilers have to hope that Koskinen can find his form very quickly come playoff time. Agree or disagree with the proposed playoff format, there’s no doubt they’re going to be wild. A strong showing in the postseason could solidify the Finnish netminder as the Oilers full-time starter going into the 2020-21 season. He hasn’t had to shoulder a full workload in the NHL yet, and Koskinen will immediately be put in that position come playoff time.