Breaking Down the Oilers’ Preseason Goaltending

At four games, the Edmonton Oilers have hit the midpoint of their 2022 preseason schedule, after defeating the Calgary Flames, 2-1, at Rogers Arena on Friday, Sept. 30, to improve to 2-2 in preseason play.

The games haven’t exactly been show-stoppers, even by preseason standards. Over Edmonton’s four games, a total of 14 goals have been scored (six by the Oilers, eight by their opposition). The Oilers and Flames combined to score more goals (15) in only the first game of last spring’s Western Conference semi-final series between the Alberta rivals.

But the preseason isn’t about playing exciting hockey. Heck, it’s not even about playing winning hockey. It’s about evaluating players, seeing who has chemistry with one another, and getting the roster, combinations and pairings set for the regular season.

Related: Oilers Biggest Training Camp Battles Heading Into 2022-23 Season

Edmonton’s preseason lineups have certainly reflected this. There have been a couple games when those wearing blue and orange haven’t looked so much like this season’s NHL team as they have resembled the 2022-23 Bakersfield Condors. Between the pipes, two goalies have effectively split playing time in each of Edmonton’s four games.

While the Oilers are set to roll with Jack Campbell as the starter and Stuart Skinner as the No. 2, goaltender has been a notable position to watch in the preseason, given the Oilers are moving in a different direction after three seasons of being backstopped by the maddeningly inconsistent duo of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith for the last three seasons.

Campbell is new to the team as its new No. 1 goalie. Skinner is heading into his first season as an NHL regular. Behind those two is another NHL vet new to the organization in Calvin Pickard. Then there are the prospects, Ryan Fanti and Olivier Rodrigue, a pair whose potential Oil Country is still learning about. Here’s a goalie-by-goalie glance at how the Oilers’ puck-stoppers have performed in the preseason so far.

Jack Campbell

Preseason stats: 1 GP, 31:12 MP, 7 SV, 1 GA (0-0, 1.92 GAA, .875 SV%)

Edmonton’s big offseason, free-agent acquisition, signed to a five-year contract worth $25 million, made his Oilers debut in Friday’s win. Edmonton fans didn’t get to see a whole lot of activity from their new netminder, who faced only eight shots in 31:12 as the Oilers carried the bulk of gameplay. The former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender was beaten once, by Calgary center Dillon Dube, on a shot that few goalies would have stopped following a misplayed puck behind Edmonton’s net.

Ryan Fanti

Preseason stats: 1 GP, 30 MP, 16 SV, 2 GA (0-0, 4.00 GAA, .889 SV%)

Fanti appeared in his first NHL game of any kind (preseason, regular season, playoffs) on Wednesday, a 3-0 loss at the Seattle Kraken. The former college hockey standout at Minnesota Duluth made a couple nice saves, and had one goal he would probably like back, looking just like what you’d expect of someone with his level of ability but lack of experience.

Calvin Pickard

Preseason stats: 3 GP, 85:57 MP, 39 SV, 1 GA (1-1, 0.69 GAA, .974 SV%)

The 30-year-old, who joined the Oilers as a free agent in July after being part of the Detroit Red Wings during 2021-22, has appeared in the most games and logged the most minutes of all Oilers goalies in the preseason. That is certainly intriguing to fans who are wondering whether Pickard will serve as a third goaltender on the roster, or go down to Bakersfield where he would take playing time away from the young prospects.

Calvin Pickard Detroit Red Wings
Calvin Pickard with the Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It may be that Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft is just getting a feel for the veteran of eight NHL campaigns, who has appeared in only 30 NHL games since 2016-17. Whatever the case, Edmonton’s bench boss has to be nothing but impressed with what he’s seen so far from Pickard. The Moncton, N.B., product has been rock solid, showing steadiness and reliability in his play. Pickard’s positioning and rebound control demonstrate a foundation built in fundamentals.

Olivier Rodrigue

Preseason stats: 1 GP, 30 MP, 7 SV, 1 GA (0-1, 2.00 GAA, .875 SV%)

The 22-year-old, who is heading into his third pro season, didn’t get much of a of chance to show where his game is (or isn’t) at, as he faced only eight shots over a period and a half against the Kraken on Wednesday, Sept. 28. He made seven saves, giving up one goal on a great shot by Matty Beniers.

Stuart Skinner

Preseason stats: 2 GP, 60:47 MP, 33 SV, 2 GA (1-0, 2.00 GA, .943 SV%)

Skinner looks ready to go in his new role as a full-time NHLer. The 23-year-old is the only other goalie besides Pickard to appear in multiple preseason games thus far, getting the start in Edmonton’s first game when he was named third star of a 4-0 home victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, Sept. 25, and coming on in relief of Pickard to give up 2-0 goals of a 4-0 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Having spent four seasons in the pros and appeared in 14 NHL games, Skinner’s comfort and savvy stand out from the crowd in these exhibition contests where so many players are trying to prove themselves.

The Oilers are right back at it on Saturday, Oct. 1, in Winnipeg to battle the Jets at 6 p.m. MDT. This point of the preseason is when the rubber starts to meet the road, and it will be interesting to see who plays in net for Edmonton. One safe bet is that we’ll see more of Campbell in these remaining four exhibition outings.

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