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Photo Credit: Nick Barden

ON’s Top Prospects Countdown – No. 15: Stuart Skinner

At this time two years ago, Stuart Skinner looked like the goalie of the future for the Edmonton Oilers.

A local product who grew up in the Oilers’ backyard, Skinner was drafted with the No. 73 overall selection in the 2017 draft from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In 2018, his final season in the WHL, Skinner got traded to Swift Current and played a key role in the Broncos’ championship run, helping build hype as Edmonton’s top goalie prospect.

Since turning pro, though, Skinner hasn’t been able to build on that success. He spent the majority of the 2018-19 season in the ECHL and then posted mediocre numbers for the Bakersfield Condors in 2019-20.

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This could be a make-or-break year for Skinner. He’s in the final year of his entry-level contract and the Oilers have two other goalie prospects who look poised to jump over him.

Stuart Skinner

Position: Goaltender
Shoots: Left
Nationality: Canada
Date of Birth: Nov. 1, 1998
Drafted: 2017, No. 73 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’3″ / 191 cm
Weight: 203 lbs / 92 kg

Back in 2018, Skinner’s stock was at an all-time high. He posted a ho-hum .897 save percentage on a bed Hurricanes team but got traded to the Broncos as they were gearing up to go on a deep playoff run. In 25 regular-season games with Swift Current, Skinner posted a .914 save percentage and a 16-6-2 record and then he posted a sparkling .932 save percentage in the playoffs, leading the team to the WHL Championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.

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Skinner turned pro the following season and ended up spending the majority of 2018-19 playing in the ECHL as he was buried behind older goalies (Shane Starrett, Dylan Wells, and Al Montoya) who ended up getting most of the reps in Bakersfield’s net. He posted an unimpressive .903 save percentage for Wichita but ended the year on a high note by putting up a .918 save percentage for Bakersfield in the AHL playoffs.

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In 2019-20, due to an injury suffered by Starrett, Skinner got a chance to shoulder the majority of the load for Bakersfield. Yet again, though, Skinner’s showing at the pro level was unimpressive as he posted a .892 save percentage over the course of 41 games before the AHL season got cut short.

There’s no doubt that Skinner’s first two professional seasons have been disappointing, especially given how highly he was touted coming out of major junior. But goalies take much longer than skaters to develop and he only just turned 22 years old, which means there is still plenty of time for him to develop. I mean, just look at Jordan Binnington, a third-round pick from 2011 who finally hit his stride in 2019.

Skinner has all of the tools to succeed (a big frame, good mobility, and a strong butterfly) and you obviously can’t write him off just yet, but the clock is ticking and there are other goalies on the way.

As of right now, things don’t look great for Skinner. Ilya Konovalov, who was drafted in 2019, is doing incredibly well in the KHL and Olivier Rodrigue, who was drafted in 2018, is playing well in Austria’s top league. Skinner, on the other hand, isn’t currently playing games in Europe.

Once the NHL and AHL seasons get rolling, Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith will occupy Edmonton’s net and off-season addition Anton Forsberg will presumably serve as the team’s third-string goalie and top option in the AHL. That leaves Skinner competing with Dylan Wells and Rodrigue for the other spot on Bakersfield behind Forsberg.

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A lot can change in one year. A good season for Skinner in Bakersfield splitting the net with Forsberg could completely revamp Skinner’s status in the Oilers’ system. Of course, another poor season could also wipe him out. Rodrigue is making the jump to pro hockey this season and Konovalov’s contract in the KHL expires after this season. If Skinner has a poor year, Rodrigue and Konovalov could easily be Bakersfield’s goalie tandem come 2021-22.

Skinner is heading into the final year of his entry-level deal. Given his toolkit and talent, it’s hard to imagine Edmonton not qualifying Skinner and simply letting him walk next off-season, but he has to prove something soon to remain on the radar as a legitimate prospect.

For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential.