The Oilers have historically had a terrible time developing goaltenders internally.
Only four goaltenders drafted and developed by the Oilers have played over 100 games in the NHL. They hit a home run drafting Andy Moog in 1980 and Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr in 1981 but struck out for two decades after that. Jussi Markkanen, selected in 2001, played 128 NHL games but wasn’t ever more than a backup, and Devan Dubnyk, the team’s top pick in 2004, didn’t hit his stride until leaving the organization.
At this moment, though, it looks like this daunting trend could change. The Oilers selected goaltenders in the third round of the draft or higher in back-to-back-to-back years from 2017 to 2019 and are now the deepest they’ve been between the pipes in years.
Between Stuart Skinner, Ilya Konovalov, and Olivier Rodrigue, it looks like the Oilers might finally buck the trend and internally develop a legitimate starting goaltender. We’ll start with Rodrigue.
Date of Birth: July 6, 2000
Drafted: 2018, No. 62 overall (EDM)
Weight: 170 lbs
At the 2018 draft, the Oilers dealt their third- and fifth-round picks to the Montreal Canadiens in order to move up to No. 62 to select Rodrigue. Given Rodrigue’s father, Sylvian Rodrigue was (and still is) the team’s goaltending coach and the organization’s history with nepotism, this choice was met with a bit of an eye-roll.
That being said, selecting Rodrigue where the team did wasn’t really a reach. He was generally ranked in the second round by a good chunk of scouting services, including Bob McKenzie who had him at No. 49 on his final list. Central Scouting also had Rodrigue ranked as the No. 1 North American goaltender in the draft.
Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine wrote about Rodrigue heading into the draft, stating that his status as a top prospect was based on his own merit and advanced skills, not simply his last name…
“His father Sylvain is a well-respected goaltending coach that has spent the last five years as part of the Edmonton Oilers organization. … Don’t think for one second that these opportunities were handed to Rodrigue. Of the draft-eligible-or-younger starting goalies in the QMJHL, his save percentage was only bested by Rimouski’s Colten Ellis, who will be a top end prospect in the 2019 entry draft in Vancouver.
At 6-foot-1, Rodrigue isn’t the most imposing figure between the pipes. He’s in the category of elite puck-trackers who are able to cut pucks off before they have a chance to rise over his shoulder. His hand discipline is very consistent, which is why you just don’t see him get beaten on clean shots all that often. Rodrigue’s other great strength is his sublime edgework while down in the butterfly. His east/west movement is lightning fast due to his ability to quickly grab an edge and push back in the opposite direction.”
Rodrigue put together a ho-hum season in his post-draft year, posting a .902 save percentage on a Drummondville Voltigeurs team that went 52-13-3. He wound up losing his gig as the team’s starting goaltender in the playoffs and appeared in just three of the team’s 16 games.
The following season, Rodrigue was traded to the Moncton Wildcats and he put together a breakout performance, posting a .918 save percentage over 39 games. The Wildcats were 50-13-1 when the league got shut down due to COVID-19 and Rodrigue unfortunately didn’t have an opportunity to carry that strong showing into the playoffs.
Given there was hockey in North America in the fall, Rodrigue made his professional debut playing for Graz in Austria. In 23 games, Rodrigue posted a .908 save percentage, the best of the three goalies that played on the team and 12th in the league.
When the AHL resumed play, Rodrigue came over to Bakersfield and played a backup role behind Stuart Skinner. In 11 games with the Condors, he put up an .894 save percentage. While that doesn’t seem good at a glance, Rodrigue seemed to improve as time went along, as he put up a .930 save percentage in his final five starts, one of which was a playoff game.
The Oilers have quite the goaltending logjam heading into next season as Ilya Konovalov is set to head to North America from the KHL and third-string goalie Alex Stalock remains in the picture. The NHL won’t be keeping taxi squads next season, so it seems that we’re likely to see Skinner and Stalock as the tandem in Bakersfield while Rodrigue and Konovalov split the net in the ECHL for the Wichita Thunder.
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.