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After strong season and rookie of the month win, Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner deserves to be in the rookie of the year conversation

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Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Woz
By Woz
10 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have accumulated many pieces of hardware over the franchise’s 43-year history. From Stanley Cups to Art Ross’s and Hart Trophies won by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Wayne Gretzky, and Mark Messier.
Nearly every individual award there is to win in the NHL has been won by an Oiler. Except for one: the Calder Trophy given to the NHL’s rookie of the year. Stuart Skinner has built himself a strong case this season to win the award and is coming off a month where he was named the NHL’s rookie of the month after going 10-1-1 with a .908 save percentage and 2.83 GAA.

Skinner’s year

First, let’s take a look at the statistics. While at first glance, Stuart Skinner may not have the prettiest numbers among goalies. Some would say they look ‘mid’ with a 0.911 save percentage and 2.88 goals against average. That’s throughout 46 games played with 2662 minutes under his belt. So let’s take a look at his numbers when playing at 5v5. The majority of the starting goalies in the league have played between 35-58 games with 1600-2700 minutes played among those goalies.
Skinner has played 2137:04 at 5v5 where he’s posted a 2.30 goals against average and a .925 save percentage tying him in eighth place with Jake Oettinger, who’s played 2621:37 minutes. The Oilers goalie also has 11.33 goals saved above average which is 11th at 5v5 — a number that looks at how many goals above league average he’s stopped based on expected goals.
It’s important to remember that the majority of a hockey game is played at even strength and it’s no surprise that a goalie will allow more goals on the penalty kill, for example. You could say those are hand-picked stats however Skinner has only played 525 minutes not at 5v5 which is around 20 percent of his total minutes played. I’m not the best at math but we’re learning that he’s pretty good when 80 percent of his game has been played at even strength. Few other goaltenders with better numbers than Skinner in these categories include Ilya Sorokin, Igor Shesterskin, Linus Ullmark, and Joonas Korpisalo.
Yes, you want a goalie to be strong in all situations in a hockey game however when you isolate the 5v5 numbers, you get a larger sample size of what Skinner has done. On top of all of this Stu now has a franchise record to his name with the most wins by an Oilers goaltender in a month with 10. The team in front of him helps however it’s quite an accomplishment considering the goalies in the 80s. He also added another accolade to his name. The NHL’s rookie of the month for March 2023.

The Other Contenders

A couple of rookies have had stand-out years as well. Matty Beniers on the Seattle Kraken has put up 21 goals and 52 points in 72 games. He’s a player who’s only improved as the season has progressed and is a big reason why the Kraken are in a playoff spot. Owen Power has entered the rookie of the year conversation and has averaged 23:46 time on ice. His offensive numbers don’t pop out but he’s had a positive impact on the blue line for the Buffalo Sabres.
An honourable mention in my eyes has to be Coyotes rookie Matias Maccelli. In recent games against the Oilers, he was always making something happen on the ice for the ‘Yotes and has produced 43 points in 58 games played. Other names in the mix are Mason McTavish, Cole Perfetti, and goaltender Logan Thompson.

Steve Mason

Steve Mason, meanwhile, was the last goalie to win the NHL’s rookie of the year and he set a rather high bar at that. He finished the 2008-09 season with a 2.29 goals-against average. .916 save percentage and lead the league with 10 shutouts. Meanwhile Stuart Skinner this year only has one shutout. It’s stats like these that you look at and question if they’ll be the reason Skinner comes up short on the award. They’re nearly Vezina caliber.
And if we factor in Mason’s 5v5 stats as we did with Skinner. He had a 0.926 save percentage, 1.90 goals against average, and 6.49 goals saved above average with 2720 minutes played. Interestingly enough, shutouts are important. Only three goalies this year in the NHL have five shutouts: Ilya Sorokin, Alexander Georgiev, and Darcy Kuemper.
Is it safe to say that shutouts are not as common as they used to be 10 to 12 years ago based on how fast and high-scoring the league has become?

The Deciding Factor

How important has Stuart Skinner been to the Oiler’s season? If we throw stats aside, where would the Oilers be if Skinner didn’t step up when Jack Campbell would constantly falter and allow 4+ goals a game? You could argue he’s a big reason why they’re in a playoff spot.
Yes, the Oilers have put up record-high numbers offensively but if Campbell started the majority of games this year, could they outscore all his problems? Here’s just a list of the former Oilers who’ve had a better save percentage than him over the past 10 years.
Skinner has been one of the most important parts of this hockey club this year, he’s made a huge difference in net. Liam Horrobin and Tyler Yaremchuk have mentioned numerous times on Oilersnation Everyday how he’s the MVP of this team not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. There’s a reason why he went to the NHL All-Star game along those two.
Will this narrative garner rookie of the year votes? Tough to say, stats usually outweigh everything. However you would think voters would factor in a players overall impact to a teams success. It’s very rare that an Oilers goalie has given fans confidence and comfortability in the crease. Stuart Skinner has done that in his rookie year.

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