The Edmonton Oilers are a team that can look back at a history full of accomplishment. The dynasty Oilers of the mid-80’s rewrote the NHL record books and won five Stanley Cups.
One thing the Oilers haven’t done well is develop goaltenders. After drafting Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr in 1980 and 1981, the development pipeline has been bare. Give or take the odd overage Euro or cup of coffee North American, the Oilers haven’t drafted and developed a quality goaltender since.
So it comes as a bit of a shock to see a system with a young starter and a group of quality prospects behind him.
The young starter, of course, is Devan Dubnyk. He boasts impressive talent, and performed well in a season where he was asked to do more than expected. The 25-year old’s 0.916 SV% represented the best goaltending the Oilers have received since Dwayne Roloson left town.
Seven entry drafts have passed since the Oilers selected Dubnyk in the first round of 2004. In the four years after that selection, the Oilers rested all their hopes on the duo of Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers, selecting just a single goalie in that span – Bryan Pitton, now middling ECHL’er. More interesting, though, is the group of players the team has drafted in the three drafts since:
- Olivier Roy, 133rd overall in 2009
- Tyler Bunz, 121st overall in 2010
- Samu Perhonen, 62nd overall in 2011
- Frans Tuohimaa, 182nd overall in 2011
Olivier Roy got great reviews in his draft year – essentially, criticism centered on the fact that he was a small butterfly goaltender. His save percentage has gradually improved in the QMJHL since then. He looked good in a brief three-game stint in the AHL last season, and enters the professional ranks still highly regarded.
Then there’s Tyler Bunz. Bunz has been brilliant so far at the Oilers’ rookie tournament – he was the best player in the game against Winnipeg. Still, there’s more to him than that. In Bunz’s draft year he played the role of starter in Medicine Hat, posting a lousy 0.898 SV%, which allowed the Oilers to snag him late in the 2010 Draft. Last season, though, Bunz improved by leaps and bounds, posting a 0.919 SV%. He has a strong opportunity to make Canada’s World Junior team this winter.
Samu Perhonen might be the best of the bunch. He was the cream of the crop among European goaltenders this past summer, but was harshly criticized by Redline Report, in large part because of a single brutal outing against Canada at the Under-18 Championships. He’s big, his athleticism and technique have been praised to high heaven by people who would know, and his numbers in Europe were tremendous. He is a superb prospect.
Overage selection Frans Tuohimaa is the laggard of the four. The Oilers took a flyer on him with their final pick in 2011, and it seems a worthwhile gamble. He’s 6’2” and had a standout season in Finnish junior, posting a 0.931 SV%.
None of these guys is a sure thing, but there are positive indicators for all of them – and the Oilers barely spent anything adding them to the system. The new regime has opted to buy goaltenders in bulk and at a discount rather than to grab blue-chippers with high picks, and so far it looks likely to pay off.