A couple of years ago, Stuart Skinner was heading into the third and final season of his entry-level contract following two mediocre seasons as a pro. Olivier Rodrigue finds himself in a similar situation today.
Rodrigue is a goaltender who the Oilers thought of highly enough that they traded up at the 2018 NHL Draft in order to select him at the end of the second round. Since being drafted, Rodrigue put up mixed results, and outside of a solid run playing in Austria during the pandemic, his transition to the professional game has been rocky.
But as we saw with Skinner, things can change quickly. Skinner followed up those two mediocre pro seasons with a breakout performance in the AHL in 2021 and then he swam when he was thrown into the deep end at the NHL level last season.
The pressure is on for Rodrigue now, as he isn’t a prospect who was selected by the current front office and he has a prospect that they signed, Ryan Fanti out of the NCAA, on his heels fighting for an opportunity.
Date of Birth: July 6, 2000
Drafted: 2018, No. 62 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’1″ / 185 cm
Weight: 159 lbs / 72 kg
Rodrigue has been a highly-touted prospect for quite some time. He was the third-overall selection in the 2016 QMJHL Draft by the Drummondville Voltigeurs but took a little while to hit his stride in Major Junior. In his rookie season, Rodrigue posted an .878 save percentage across 41 games and he saw a slight improvement to a .903 save percentage the following season.
At the 2018 NHL Draft, the Oilers packaged the No. 71 and No. 133 overall picks in order to move up to No. 62 to select Rodrigue. This was met with a bit of eye-roll as Rodrigue is the son of Sylvian Rodrigue, who’s one of the goaltending coaches in the Oilers organization. That said, Rodrigue was one of the top goaltending prospects in the draft, so selecting him late in the second round wasn’t at all a reach.
Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine praised Rodrigue heading into the draft and said that his status as a top prospect wasn’t just because of 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 had a ho-hum post-draft season with Drummondville but broke out in 2019-20 when he was traded to a very good Moncton Wildcats team. Over 39 regular-season games with the Wildcats, Rodrigue went 31-7-1 and posted a .918 save percentage, which ranked second in the QMJHL among goaltenders who appeared in at least 20 games. Rodrigue and the Wildcats unfortunately had their QMJHL Championship and Memorial Cup aspirations cut short that spring because of the pandemic.
With hockey in North America paused the following fall, Rodrigue found a gig playing for Graz99ers in Austria. He’d post a .908 save percentage over 23 games, an impressive showing given his age. Rodrigue came back overseas when the NHL and AHL started, and he put up an .894 save percentage over the course of 11 games with the Bakersfield Condors.
The 2021-22 season didn’t feature a step forward for Rodrigue. He appeared in 13 games for the Condors and put up an .886 save percentage and his save percentage in 15 games against weaker competition in the ECHL was .907.
While his transition to the professional game has been rocky, goaltenders take longer to develop than skaters and there’s certainly no reason to write Rodrigue off as a prospect after just two pro seasons. Stuart Skinner’s first two pro seasons resulted in a .903 ECHL save percentage and an .892 save percentage in the AHL before he put it all together in the third season of his entry-level contract.
Rodrigue will split the Condors’ net next season with veteran Calvin Pickard while Ryan Fanti starts off in the ECHL. The Oilers have four goaltenders signed for 2023-24 and Rodrigue isn’t one of them. He needs to have a solid showing this year in order to remain in Edmonton’s plans moving forward.
For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are those who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and are 23 years old or younger at the start of the 2022-23 season.
Previously in this series…
- Honourable Mentions: Luca Munzenberger, Filip Engaras, Noah Philp, and Ryan Fanti
- Graduates and Departures From Last Year’s List