Oilers Goaltending Still Poses More Questions than Answers

The Edmonton Oilers goaltending situation has been finalized with the waiving of Richard Bachman for purpose of re-assignment to the AHL OKC Barons. Both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have had looks in the preseason with Scrivens still in the starting position headed into the season opener on October 9th.

The issue however is that the Oilers goaltending walking into 2014-15 still poses more questions than answers not just limited to the main roster but throughout the organization. Scrivens and Fasth are still vastly inexperienced in the bigger picture and despite some solid showings in 2013-14 only time will tell if the Oilers have cured their goaltending woes throughout the rebuild.

The Barons will compose a competitive balance with Bachman and Brossoit who will likely split the starts. On the downside Brossoit had very underwhelming performances at the AHL level after excelling at the ECHL level. Unjustly so Brossoit has had the goalie of the future tag since being acquired last November due to the fact the Oilers just have nothing in their system of substance.

Tyler Bunz has struggled since turning pro after a stellar WHL career with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Ditto for Olivier Roy who was eventually traded for Brossoit last year after having underwhelming performances at the 2011 World Juniors where he lost the starting job for Team Canada and as a pro in the ECHL. Roy, now 23, is on the outside looking in on an NHL affiliation having signed a one-year deal with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads (apart of the Dallas Stars farm system).

The struggles continue down the pipeline where Keven Bouchard and Zach Nagelvoort look to prove themselves in junior and college respectively. Bouchard has already been struggling out of the gate and Nagelvoort is a long-term prospect.

Oilers Testing Fate With A Combined 109 Games of NHL Experience in Scrivens & Fasth

The main storyline this season will be whether or not the Oilers will finally have viable NHL goaltending something they haven’t had throughout the rebuild. First it was an aging Nikolai Khabibulin with a bad back, followed by a brief 48-game starting season for career minor-leaguer and former “Goalie of the Future” Jeff Deslauriers and ending with a brief run with Devan Dubnyk. Don’t forget the random assortment in the middle that ranged from Dany Sabourin, Martin Gerber and Yann Danis.

With a combined 109 NHL games between them, the fate of Oil Country will be in the hands of Scrivens and Fasth this season.

Scrivens, 28, emerged last season as the de facto starter after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a 2014 third round selection. That third round selection eventually made it’s way to Detroit where the Red Wings used the selection on Pierre Turgeon’s son Dominic.

With a full season ahead of him critics are still questioning whether Scrivens can handle the load and play more than 50 games as an NHL starter. The fans that did see him play saw Scrivens play Team MVP hockey throughout the final stretch of the season including a monstrous 59 save shutout against the San Jose Sharks on January 29th.

Fasth, 32, has been eye candy to the Oilers management team dating back to the summer of 2010 when the Oilers began pushing hard to sign the Swedish goaltender out of Vaxjo of the  Allsvenskan. After a rookie season in 2012-13 that saw Fasth wrestle the starting position away from Jonas Hiller, Fasth had an injury-plagued 2013-14 that limited him to just twelve games last season.



Will Bachman & Brossoit Live Up To Expectations in OKC?



Bachman, 27, at the very least is a seasoned AHL veteran with 136 games under his belt that will be recalled throughout the season much as the was last year to provide spot duty for the backup position. Bachman is the perfect third-string goaltender in what is growing into a position of strength in the Oilers organization.

Laurent Brossoit, 21, will split the starts in the AHL with Bachman this season and will likely be brought up for the occasional backup duty with the Oilers. Brossoit was acquired in a trade last season with the Calgary Flames that saw the Oilers acquire Brossoit and Roman Horak (since fled to the KHL), moving defenseman Ladislav Smid and struggling goaltending prospect Olivier Roy in the process. His game is still developing and after showing the could pick up the professional game well at the ECHL level, Brossoit eventually finished the season with ten AHL starts between Abbotsford and OKC.

As the current 1B to Bachman’s 1A, Oiler fans should expect to see the goalie of the future every other night in a Barons uniform.

Bunz Entering Now or Never Territory

The honeymoon is over.

The goalie of the future honours have been passed over from Tyler Bunz to Brossoit. Bunz, 22, was a former 5th round pick of the Oilers in 2010 and has struggled to adjust to the professional ranks since turning pro in 2012-13. Bunz not to be forgotten won the 2012 WHL Del Wilson trophy as the WHL’s top goaltender posting 39 wins and a 0.921SV% in 61 games. The talent is still there but the focus for Bunz will be on bouncing back from back-to-back struggling seasons with the ECHL Stockton Thunder carrying a bloated 3.16GAA and 0.890SV%.

Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor went out of his way at the 2011 NHL Draft to make sure the Oilers management team and then-GM Steve Tambellini selected Frans Tuohimaa in the 7th round out of the Jokerit program in Finland. Tuohimaa, 23, after moving to North America at the end of last season, play his first full season in the ECHL along with Bunz likely splitting the starts. Tuohimaa is still an enigma and if he plays well could eventually force the Oilers hands to make some room ahead of him on the depth chart.

Will Bouchard & Nagelvoort Build Off Opportunities?

Last years seventh round selection Keven Bouchard will be given the chance to be the starter this season for the QMJHL Val’d’Or Foreurs after battling a three-goalie system with St. Louis Blues prospect Francois Tremblay and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Antoine Bibeau. Although his early season struggles have opened the door for 17-year-old Etienne Montpetit to run with the starting ball so far.

That being said, Bouchard at 6’2 205lbs has the frame to be a capable NHL goaltender in the future.

Another 2014 draft pick in fourth round selection Zach Nagelvoort will start this season with the NCAA University of Michigan. A long-term project for MacTavish, Nagelvoort made a name for himself last season when the recorded the record for most saves in a game by a University of Michigan goaltender with 63 versus Penn State in March. Similar to Bouchard, Nagelvoort stands at 6’2 190lbs giving him an average frame for an eventual NHL goaltender but is still a longshot. Oilers management will likely see Nagelvoort take the long college route before eventually turning pro.

The hope is he builds off a solid season with the Wolverines that saw him post a 2.20GAA and 0.929SV% as a freshman.


Hovinen Are You Still There?


There is still one goalie who is much forgotten and sometimes lost in the Oilers shuffle and that’s 6’7 200lbs of a monster in Niko Hovinen who the Oilers claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013.

Unfortunately for the Oilers Hovinen only played ten games for the Barons in 2012-13 to little fanfare. MacTavish and company retained his rights after tendering a qualifying offer that was eventually rejected as Hovinen opted to return to Europe and play with Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the KHL. Hovinen, 26, was a former fifth round selection made by the Minnesota Wild in 2006 and is in his second season with Admiral Vladivostok.

A return to North America is unlikely.

Final Thoughts

All said this is still the strongest goaltending has been in years for the Oilers. As many questions as Scrivens and Fasth pose they have proven to be capable short-term answers in the league.

They now have to prove which one can be a long term answer in goal.

It’s a big year for each goaltender in the Oilers system.