The Edmonton Oilers may have a glimmer of hope in another young goaltender they’ve developed as Olivier Rodrigue has been on an upward trajectory this season, his third in pro. Though it still may take a couple of years for him to get anywhere close to where Stuart Skinner is right now, the potential and similarities are there.
Both Skinner and Rodrigue are Canadian-born goalies, drafted and developed by the Oilers. Though they were drafted one year apart, Skinner in 2017 (third round) and Rodrigue in 2018 (second round), Rodrigue is two years younger and is stuck behind Calvin Pickard in the minors, while Skinner was the American Hockey League (AHL) starter for the Bakersfield Condors at this time. Pickard, at 30 years old and with a lower save percentage (SV%) than Rodrigue, has played in eight more games and faced over 500 more shots this season. That should not be the split and that will have to change by next season as both of them and Ryan Fanti will be fighting for playing time.
Skinner and Rodrigue both had rough starts to their pro careers, whether that was in the ECHL or AHL. But as goaltenders are known to do, their adjustment period is longer until they are NHL-ready and hit their primes at a later age than forwards and defencemen. Skinner found his stride in his third pro career while Rodrigue has done the same this season. Let’s take a year-by-year look at both and compare their upward trajectories in the Oilers’ system.
Skinner vs Rodrigue – Year-by-Year Pro Comparison
Skinner and Rodrigue had different starts to their pro careers. After four full seasons each in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), they turned pro. Skinner got his start in the ECHL in 2018-19 where he played 41 games and added six games in the AHL. His ECHL numbers were mediocre with a record of 15-14-7, 3.16 goals-against average (GAA), .903 SV%, and four shutouts before they were very poor in the AHL where he had a .879 SV%.
Rodrigue split time between the AHL and the Austrian League in 2020-21, his first pro season. He doubled his AHL games played in Austria where he went 10-10-2 with a 3.11 GAA and .908 SV%. In 11 AHL games, he finished with a record of 4-5-0 and a 2.99 GAA, .894 SV%, and one shutout. His first-year numbers weren’t as bad as Skinner’s and he played in a more competitive league.
Rodrigue then dropped to the level Skinner was at in his first season as a pro in year two. He split time between the ECHL and AHL, putting up mediocre numbers in the ECHL and poor AHL numbers. His splits were 7-7-1, 3.57 GAA, and .907 SV% in the ECHL and 6-5-2, 3.09 GAA, and .886 in the AHL.
I believe that part of the reason why Skinner rose to great heights already with the Oilers and was able to take over the starter role in Edmonton this season was because of the patience and development we’re also seeing with Rodrigue. In his second season as a pro, he played 41 AHL games and three ECHL games. The three ECHL games were a write-off as he had a sub-.900 SV%, but at least he improved his numbers a bit at the AHL level from the season prior. Skinner went 16-17-6 with a 3.31 GAA, .892 SV%, and one shutout. This was a continued struggle at the start of his pro career, but at least he was getting the starts and experience.
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Rodrigue is now in year three of his pro career and his rise has been notable like Skinner’s was in 2020-21 when he was given one appearance in the NHL after a great AHL season. Skinner flipped a switch and went 20-9-1 with a 2.38 GAA, .914 SV%, and two shutouts in his third season as a pro. This got the attention of the Oilers, which earned him that one NHL game. Rodrigue is in his third season and went from a 3.09 GAA and .886 SV% to a 2.80 GAA and .910 SV%. This is a very impressive jump for the 22-year-old, especially since he hasn’t been given a ton of games. He’s gotten into 28 games this season, but the team has played a total of 69 and he’s shown the most promise of the goalies they’ve used.
What Can We Expect Moving Forward?
Last season, Skinner’s fourth as a pro, he further improved his numbers and showed the Oilers that he was just about NHL-ready. He improved to 22-7-5 with a 2.21 GAA, .920 SV%, and five shutouts in the AHL and got into 13 NHL games for the Oilers, going 6-6-0 with a 2.62 GAA, .913 SV%, and one shutout. Given he was the team’s best option to call up when they were dealing with injuries, he set the stage for his emergence as a rookie All-Star and Calder Trophy candidate this season.
So what can we expect from Rodrigue next season? At the very least, Pickard needs to be given fewer starts as Rodrigue is eight years younger and has more potential. On top of that, Fanti will be pushing for more starts in the AHL next season as he has had a rough first season as a pro. With the improvement Rodrigue has shown, I could see him getting a short tryout with the Oilers at some point next season to see how he fairs. With the lack of space in the minors and the NHL, it may take an extra couple of years before we actually see Rodrigue find his way into a partial role for Edmonton.
Skinner is locked in for three more years while Jack Campbell is under contract for four. Things could change and Rodrigue could give the Oilers no choice but to call him up before those contracts are up or they can choose to let him develop longer.
I would call Skinner a starter with the level of talent he’s shown already. It took him less than five years playing pro to reach this point. The bar is set high for the next up-and-comer Rodrigue, but he’s shown the ability to reach it. If he stays on this upward trajectory, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the next backup/starter in Edmonton.