When I did the prospect countdown last winter, I noted that Stuart Skinner needed to have a strong season in 2020-21 in order to re-establish himself as a legitimate candidate for the Oilers’ goaltender of the future. He did exactly that.
Last season was the final year of Skinner’s entry-level deal and it also represented the first time he put together good results at the professional level.
Skinner was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft and really started to generate hype in 2018 when he was dealt to the Swift Current Broncos and he helped them win the Ed Chynoweth Cup (the WHL championship). In his first pro season, Skinner put up mediocre numbers in the ECHL and it was more of the same the following season playing in the AHL.
Finally, in 2021, Skinner broke out as a pro, posting a .914 save percentage over 31 starts for the Bakersfield Condors. There’s some valid skepticism around last season’s AHL results because of how many quality players were stashed on NHL taxi squads, but Skinner’s performance has him in a much better spot today than where he was last year.
Date of Birth: November 1, 1998
Drafted: 2017, No. 78 overall (EDM)
Weight: 203 lbs
A first-round pick in the bantam draft, Skinner’s WHL career was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
He played 43 games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes as a rookie in 2014-15, posting a decent .909 save percentage on a bad team. The following year, Skinner broke out, as he put up a .920 save percentage over 44 games, though his performance cratered in the playoffs.
The 2016-17 season, Skinner’s post-draft campaign, was a wild ride. The Hurricanes were very good that year, but Skinner posted a pedestrian .905 save percentage, though that could be chalked up to fatigue, as he played in a whopping 60 games. Unlike the previous season, Skinner was excellent in the playoffs, putting up a .916 save percentage over 20 games.
Skinner was dealt from the Hurricanes to the Swift Current Broncos mid-way through the 2017-18 season and his showing in the playoffs really put him on the grid as a top prospect. In the playoffs, Skinner posted an incredible .932 save percentage, helping the Broncos win the league’s championship.
As I mentioned earlier, Skinner’s transition to the pro ranks was shaky. In 2018-19, he put up a .903 save percentage in 41 games in the ECHL, though his season ended on a positive note, as he performed well over four games for the Condors in the playoffs. In 2019-20, Skinner became the defacto starting goalie for Bakersfield, and he put up an ugly .892 save percentage.
It was a bit difficult to be optimistic about Skinner’s 2020-21 season. He didn’t find a gig overseas while North American hockey was shut down and then he spent the first month of the NHL season watching from the sidelines when Mike Smith was on the Long-Term Injured Reserve. When Mikko Koskinen was gassed and needed a break, Skinner allowed five goals on 38 shots in his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators.
Despite that, Skinner was excellent when AHL play resumed. He started 31 games for the Condors and went 20-9-2 with a .914 save percentage. Olivier Rodrigue, who was playing in his first professional season and had his eyes on jumping Skinner on the organizational depth chart, had an .894 save percentage in 11 games.
With Rodrigue turning pro and Ilya Konovalov soon heading over from Russia, the pressure was on Skinner to deliver, and he did. Next up, the 2021-22 season represents a huge opportunity for Skinner.
His showing in 2021 will surely give him the starting reigns in Bakersfield next season, where he’ll likely play in tandem with Edmonton’s third-string goalie, Alex Stalock, if he isn’t claimed by another team on waivers. I would assume that Rodrigue and Konovalov split the net in the ECHL.
The Oilers’ long-term goaltending situation is completely wide open right now. Smith is signed for two more seasons while both Koskinen and Stalock are eligible to hit the open market next summer. A big season in the AHL from Skinner in 2021-22 could help him build a path to an NHL gig in the not-so-distant future.
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.