Photo credit:Tony Saxon/GuelphToday
The latest addition to the Edmonton Oilers goaltending room
7 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ 2023 NHL Entry Draft experience was a light one, especially compared to previous years. Ken Holland and his staff only had three picks with the first coming at 56th overall, when they selected Beau Akey from the Barrie Colts.
Throughout the history of the draft, the Oilers have never had such few picks. The previous low was last year when they had four picks, taking Reid Schaefer in the first round and then didn’t pick again until 158th overall.
With so few picks, you don’t have much wiggle room. After taking Akey, Edmonton opted to go with Nathaniel Day, a goaltender from the Flint Firebirds in the OHL, and Matt Copponi from Merrimack College.
“It’s so surreal,” said Day on being selected by the Edmonton Oilers. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and I am very grateful to have been selected by the Edmonton Oilers.
“They’re such an amazing organization. It was such a special day for my family and me, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Day is joining a busy Oilers goaltending room, making it back-to-back years the team has taken a netminder. Samuel Jonsson was last year’s goaltender picked from Brynas Jr. (Sweden) and he was paired as a new addition with the signing of Ryan Fanti from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. There’s also Olivier Rodrigue, who had a good season with the Bakersfield Condors with a 0.912 save percentage. Then, of course, there’s Stuart Skinner that leads the group of 25 and under goaltenders.
Elite Prospects described Day as one of the biggest wildcards in this draft class, suggesting that his attributes are much better than what his numbers may show.
“Day displays a lot of patience in a variety of different scoring opportunities. He is solid and composed on breakaways, rarely making the first move. When the puck is worked around the zone, he shows good attention to detail by making micro adjustments with his feet to stay on the angle, even when the play around him speeds up.”
With Flint in 2023, Day split time between the pipes dressing in 32 games, with St Louis Blues prospect Will Cranley getting 44. The Oilers prospect finished the season with a 17-10-0 record along with a .874 save percentage and a 3.91 goals-against average.
Day, Skinner and Rodrigue are all CHL goaltenders that the Oilers have drafted in recent memory. In their first season as established players in the league, Day’s numbers are more comparable to Rodrigue rather than the Calder Trophy finalist Stuart Skinner. However, the Firebirds goaltender managed to find more wins, which is ultimately what matters.
“Playing a lot more games helped me get a lot more experience,” said Day in his second season in the OHL. “It helped me in all aspects of my game like playing in different situations and how to handle them. It was great and helped with my development a lot.”
The Oilers will want to see that development continue for Day and hope that history could possibly repeat itself. Rodrigue took huge strides after handling a big workload in his first season in the QMJHL. The Condors goaltender won 31 of his 53 games and elevated his stats to a 2.54 GAA and 0.903 SV%. Day has the ability to take the same jump Rodrigue did five years ago with the skill set he has.
The Flint Firebirds had a promising season in 2023 finishing 5th in the Western Conference, but ultimately falling in a game seven in the first round to the Saginaw Spirit. Next season, Day hopes to guide his team on a deeper playoff run and take those steps in his development.
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