Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner has the potential to become the first No. 1 goaltender the organization has drafted and developed since Devan Dubnyk.
Stuart Skinner, selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third-round (78th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft from the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, emerged as a noteworthy prospect during his second major-junior season in 2015-16. Skinner registered a strong 2.73 goals against average, and .920 save percentage in 44 appearances that season as a 17-year-old. His numbers dipped in his draft year, but that didn’t keep the Oilers from trading up to pick him.
In an interview with Oilers TV at the 2017 NHL Draft, Skinner said it was a dream come true to be chosen by the team he grew up idolizing. “I was always hoping [to be selected by the Oilers],” said Skinner. “Being from Edmonton, it’s an absolute blessing that I got picked by Edmonton. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I can’t really describe it in words. I get to stay back at home, so it’s really a great feeling.”
After a slow start to the season, the Hurricanes traded Skinner to the Swift Current Broncos in a seven-player blockbuster deal on Jan. 9. Although he was initially shocked and disappointed to be shipped by the team he had played for since he was 15-years-old, Skinner quickly embraced the move to Saskatchewan and thrived with his new club. In 25 games with the Broncos this season, Skinner had just six regulation losses, helping Swift Current finish with the second-best record in the WHL.
“A large and agile keeper with refined skills…uses his lower half extremely well, expanding his legs in the butterfly to seal off the whole lower half of the net…his size doesn’t hamper his speed as he remains agile and in control in his movements…is very quick post to post and has great leg strength to pop up and drop down quickly multiple times on reactionary circumstances.”
“He’s great at squaring up shots and is constantly searching to get the best sight line at the puck….adjusts his angles according to the shooters position and is able to swallow up numerous shots with his large torso without rebound…controls rebounds well, limiting pucks in the slot with a combination of well angled leg work and the use of his blocker…his glove hand is quick and he keeps it held in a good position…compete to never give up is exceptional…very impressive how polished he is at this stage of his career…has the potential to become a high-end stopper at the pro level.” (Aaron Vickers/October 30, 2016)
Playoff MVP Candidate
Skinner was named the CHL Goaltender of the Week (the third time he has received the honor this season) on Monday. He posted a 2-1 record with an outstanding 1.93 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.
The Broncos lead the WHL Championship Series 3-1, following a 1-0 overtime victory over the Everett Silvertips on Wednesday, where Skinner made 32 saves and was named the first star. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound goalie recorded his fifth shutout of the playoffs in Game 4 against the Silvertips and has stopped 132 of the 139 shots he’s faced in the series.
Despite having three of the top six scorers in the WHL on the Broncos roster, Skinner’s superb play in goal has been the biggest reason for the team’s playoff success. Swift Current can claim their third Ed Chynoweth Cup title in franchise history and first since 1992-93 with a victory on home ice on Friday.
If the Broncos win the championship, Skinner should be the favorite to take home the WHL playoff most valuable player award.
Skinner, who doesn’t turn 20 until November, is eligible to make his pro debut next year. While he could return for a fifth WHL season in 2018-19, Skinner has nothing left to learn at this level and is ready for a new challenge. Skinner has yet to ink an entry-level deal with the Oilers, but that should get done within the next few months.
With Laurent Brossoit potentially leaving the Oilers organization this summer, Skinner has a real shot at becoming the Bakersfield Condors No. 1 goalie next year or at least splitting time between the pipes with Al Montoya.
Fellow Oilers goalie prospect Dylan Wells, selected in the fifth-round (123rd overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft, will also make his pro debut next season, which should create some internal competition between the two 1998-born goalies for an AHL job.
The Oilers surely want Skinner and Wells to each have an opportunity to be a starter. So, one of the two is headed for an ECHL assignment.
Oilers Goalie of the Future
Devan Dubnyk is a proven NHL goalie and former Vezina Trophy finalist. Unfortunately for the Oilers and their fans, he didn’t reach that level until after he was traded out of town. Still, he was drafted and developed by the Oilers and played parts of five seasons in Edmonton.
Since taking Dubnyk in the first-round (14th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers have selected ten goalies. They have played a combined one game in the NHL. But it looks like the Oilers have finally found a gem in Skinner.
Skinner has the talent to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, but it’s going to take some time. Goalies take the longest to develop of any position in hockey. After all, Skinner is still a teenager.
The NHL’s top 10 goalie wins leaders in 2017-18 had an average age of 24.2 when they became a starter in the league. If Skinner can develop into an elite AHL goalie over the next few seasons, we could potentially see the local kid take over as the Oilers No. 1 goalie when he’s 24 in 2022-23.
Cam Talbot has one-year remaining on the three-year, $12.5 million contract extension he signed on Jan. 17, 2016. The Oilers will probably offer Talbot another three-year deal, especially if plays even close to the way he did in 2016-17 when the Oilers reached the second-round of the playoffs.
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Talbot will be 35 in the summer of 2022, and by then the Oilers might be looking for a younger option, like Skinner, to play the lion’s share of the games.