Oilers’ Skinner Having a Calder-Type Season

You can talk about Connor McDavid being the NHL’s most valuable player this season, but he may have competition for MVP on his own team from goaltender Stuart Skinner. If it wasn’t for Skinner, the Edmonton Oilers might not be in contention for the Pacific Division title in 2022-23. Skinner, who should be in contention for the Calder Trophy, almost single-handedly kept the Oilers afloat in the first half of the season until Jack Campbell got his confidence back.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

And, with the Oilers looking like they were heading for a losing skid in late February, Skinner made one of his best saves of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers at home to preserve the Oilers’ 4-2 victory on Feb. 21.

You Can Tell Skinner Loves the Game

When you hear interviews with Skinner, and you see his play out on the ice, you can tell how much he loves being in the net. In a recent interview before the Oilers’ 7-2 road victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was asked about facing former Edmonton Oil King and current Penguins starter Tristan Jarry. You could tell by the way he answered the questions that he was up for the challenge, and hear the passion for his craft in his voice. That’s a tell tale sign that this guy has a bright future ahead of him.

Skinner’s All-Star Game Selection Should Make Him a Calder Candidate

When Skinner was voted to the NHL All-Star Game, he was definitely deserving of the recognition. If you’re a fan of Skinner you can hope that his All-Star selection will translate into Calder Trophy votes. However, individual trophy selections in the NHL can be a weird animal. Sometimes players and teams who play in the NHL’s Western Conference have the late time zone working against them. This is especially true for voters in eastern time zones who aren’t always watching games that start at 10 pm or 11 pm in the Pacific Division. In the case of Skinner, he actually might have McDavid’s amazing 2022-23 season, as well as Leon Draisaitl’s strong play overshadowing his impressive performance.

Related: Oilers’ Stuart Skinner Is the Most Unlikely All-Star in Team History

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Many who don’t follow the Oilers closely might be led to believe that this is a two-man team comprised of McDavid and Draisaitl. But if you look closer, you’ll know that if it wasn’t for Skinner’s strong play, especially early in the year, there’s no way the Oilers are where they are right now. Nothing against the Oilers’ other goalie Campbell, because he’s definitely been playing better in the second half, but it’s becoming clear that Skinner should be the starter should the team qualify for the postseason.

A Strong Stretch Drive Could Help Skinner’s Calder Trophy Chances

The Oilers have 22 games to go before the playoffs. Their schedule in late February and throughout March is going to be challenging as they play the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets twice. If Skinner rises to the occasion against these top teams, you have to believe that he’ll rise in the Calder Trophy conversation. That would be a nice bonus for Skinner and long-time Oilers fans who’ve never had a Calder Trophy winner in the 43 years the franchise has been based in Edmonton. This despite having a teenage Wayne Gretzky tie for the league lead in his rookie season, only to be ruled ineligible because of his one season in the WHA in 1978-79. McDavid could’ve walked away with it in his rookie season had he not broken his collarbone. But, unfortunately, lady luck isn’t always on the Oilers’ side when it comes to the Calder.

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Maybe this will be the year that Skinner breaks through and gains the recognition he deserves. After welcoming his baby boy into the world in 2023 – and receiving All-Star recognition – winning the Calder would be the cherry on top of his 2022-23 season. I’m sure he’d tell you that winning the Stanley Cup is the only thing that matters, though. For Oilers fans, it really is the only thing that does, and if Skinner continues to trend upward, the Oilers’ chances of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup only get better.