The Edmonton Oilers have finally drafted and developed a starting goaltender
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
A win’s a win, especially when it’s a four-point game against your biggest rival, but the Edmonton Oilers were far from their best in Calgary on Tuesday night.
The ice appeared to be tilted in the Flames’ favour for the majority of the game, as the Oilers struggled to make tape-to-tape passes and ultimately found themselves hemmed into their own zone much more often than they were in Calgary’s. All told, Calgary had 80 shot attempts at even strength compared to Edmonton’s 26, and the Flames had 16 high-danger scoring chances while the Oilers managed just six.
The difference? Stuart Skinner was nearly unbeatable.
The 24-year-old Edmonton native looked cool and composed well beyond his years in a game that featured constant pressure and little margin for error. Skinner stopped 46 shots in what was likely the most impressive performance in his young NHL career and the Oilers left Calgary with a 2-1 victory.
Through 22 games this season, Skinner now owns a .916 save percentage, which ranks ninth in the league among goaltenders who have appeared in at least 20 games. He’s also starting to develop a reputation as a Flames killer, as he’s posted a .975 save percentage against Calgary over three outings this year.
Getting excellent goaltending is one thing, but getting it from somebody who came up through the organization is another.
For much of the team’s history, evaluating quality goaltending prospects through the draft and developing them into successful NHLers has been a major weakness, but it looks like Skinner has bucked that trend.
In the 1980s, the Oilers drafted and developed two very goalies right off the hop. They found a diamond in the rough with Andy Moog in the seventh round of the 1980 draft, who went on to play 713 games in the league, 235 of which were with Edmonton. The following year, they used their first-round pick on Grant Fuhr, who had the best years of a Hall of Fame career with the Oilers.
After those two, there was a considerable dry spell when it came to the Oilers developing their own goalie. The only two goalies drafted by the Oilers who had notable NHL careers were 2001 fifth-round pick Jussi Markkanen and 2004 first-round pick Devan Dubnyk. Markanen played 128 NHL games and maxed out as a quality backup while Dubynk played 542 NHL games and didn’t really find his groove until he was traded away.
As a result, the Oilers have constantly had to search for their goalies either on the trade or free-agent market. Bill Ranford, Curtis Joseph, Tommy Salo, Dwayne Roloson, and Cam Talbot were acquired through trades, and the team signed Nikola Khabibulin, Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith, and now Jack Campbell in free agency.
There isn’t necessarily a pattern to winning in the NHL, as the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years with Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes, a goalie they selected in the first round, while the Colorado Avalanche won last year with a tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz, who they traded for and signed in free agency.
But if there’s one thing that’s certain in the league, nobody finds success without quality goaltending. It looks like the Oilers have found themselves a quality goaltender with Skinner, and the fact he’s somebody that grew up in their own backyard and came through their system makes the story even better.
STUART SKINNER’S CAREER SO FAR
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