Local product Stuart Skinner made his National Hockey League debut at Rogers Place on Sunday and the host Edmonton Oilers blasted the Ottawa Senators 8-5 in a victory that was as much about the home team’s offensive eruption as it was the rookie goalie’s first victory.
Suffice to say, there were lots to talk about after the game, but here’s what was most notable from a memorable night in downtown Edmonton.
Welcome to The Show
Skinner, 22, who was born and raised in Edmonton and drafted 78th overall by the Oilers in 2017, turned aside 33 shots for the win in what was not just his first NHL regular-season appearance, but his first game of any kind in nearly 11 months. He had last played on March 6, 2020, with the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors.
The six-foot-four netminder etched his name in the Oilers all-time registry as the franchise’s 59th goalie to appear in an NHL regular-season game, and the 49th to record a win.
A product of Edmonton’s South Side Athletic Club, Skinner played in the Western Hockey League with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos, and made five starts, going 3-2, at Rogers Place during his junior career.
After leading the Broncos to the 2018 WHL championship, Skinner has spent the last two seasons in the minors, playing 91 regular-season games between the AHL and ECHL.
They Had Us Fooled
It wasn’t a surprise that Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, having played in all of the Oilers’ first 10 games, including their overtime victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, got the night off on Sunday. But what caught just about everyone off guard was that Skinner got the nod rather than veteran goalie Troy Grosenick.
Grosenick, acquired off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 16, was added to the active roster Saturday after completing his mandatory quarantine and dressed as Koskinen’s back up against the Maple Leafs.
Skinner wasn’t even on the active roster as of Sunday morning; he had been sent to the taxi squad to make room for Grosenick.
It wasn’t until just a few hours before puck drop against Ottawa that the Oilers recalled Skinner to the active roster, but his starting Sunday night was the plan all along: The rookie revealed in his post-game media availability that he had been informed as such by Oilers goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz on Saturday morning.
Grosenick remained on the roster, giving the Oilers three goalies currently active.
Records Tied, Milestones Equaled …
Dominik Kahun got things off to a fast start for the Oilers Sunday, scoring just eight seconds into the first period, to tie a record for the fastest goal to start a game. Wayne Gretzky had set the mark on December 14, 1983, breaking the ice in Edmonton’s 9-4 win over the New York Rangers. It was Kahun’s second goal as an Oilers, and second consecutive game scoring Edmonton’s first goal.
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, meanwhile, were up to their usual superhero act. After recording six and five points, respectively, the pair have taken up membership in a very exclusive club alongside Edmonton’s original dynamic duo, Gretzky and Jari Kurri:
McDavid, who torched the Leafs for two goals and one assist on Saturday, also become the first Oilers player with three or more points on consecutive days since Mark Messier on Jan. 12 and 13, 1991.
… And a Couple Close Calls
The Oilers record book nearly had to add a couple additional entries.
With six apples, Draisaitl came one of short of tying Gretzky’s single-game record for assists; The Great One had seven on three separate occasions as an Oiler. Draisaitl had half a dozen helpers through two periods, but Edmonton was held off the scoresheet in the final 20 minutes.
Edmonton also came one short of tying the team record of four power-play goals in a period; Tyson Barrie, James Neal, and Ryan Nugent Hopkins each scored with the man advantage during the opening frame.
The Oilers will go for a third straight win when again take on the Senators at Rogers Place on Tuesday night.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.