With Ben Bishop ruled out for the next five months, the Dallas Stars will need to rely on others for goaltending, at least for the first few months of the season (if the Jan. 1 start date stands).
While it’s obvious Anton Khudobin will more likely than not be the starter for that time, the backup position is a little more complicated. However, Jake Oettinger, who backed up for Khudobin during the playoff run, could very well end up filling that role.
Taking a Chance
Oettinger, a Boston University alum, was drafted by the Stars 26th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell noted that Oettinger was the total package for the team.
“He had everything we’re looking for in a goaltender. He has the size, the athleticism, and the compete level. He had the three checkmarks we were looking at with a goalie, and we got him.”NHL.com
While it is uncommon league-wide to see goalies drafted in the first round, it was even more surprising that the Stars drafted a goalie so early on; let alone traded up to draft one.
The Stars have previously had trouble with goalies drafted in the first round. One, in particular, being Jack Campbell, the goalie the Stars drafted 11th overall in the 2010 draft. For those who don’t know, Campbell didn’t exactly have a great time in Dallas.
He never really developed as a player and after spending six seasons within the Dallas organization, Campbell hit the nadir of his career with the Stars and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
It was a pretty big disappointment considering the Stars used such a high draft pick on a player and did not have it turn out the way anyone wanted it to.
This obviously made the Stars very wary when drafting goalies early in the draft, so for Dallas to trade up to draft a goalie so early on, it meant they had a lot of faith in Oettinger, and so far, he hasn’t disappointed.
Since being drafted, Oettinger has spent the past two seasons playing for Dallas’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
His first season in the AHL wasn’t overwhelmingly spectacular, but that was anticipated as it naturally takes time to adjust from college play to professional action. In this first season (2018-19), he posted a 2.47 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage through six games.
The next season (2019-20), he improved and recorded a 2.57 GAA and a .917 SV% through 38 games.
Then, when Ben Bishop had to step down from his starter position in the playoffs due to injury, Oettinger found himself a backup goalie in what was possibly the weirdest NHL postseason ever played.
During his time in the bubble this past postseason, he was only called upon in two games for short amounts of time but played well both times.
The first game he appeared in was Game 2 of the Westerns Conference Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. He came into the game for the third period after the Stars went down by three goals and made five saves on the five shots he faced in the loss.
The next game he appeared in was Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning, again in the third period. The Stars entered the period down four and Oettinger saved all three of the shots he faced.
The organization put a lot of trust in the young goaltender so early on in his career and even though he didn’t play all that much, he did everything the team could have asked of him when he was called upon.
In the two games he appeared in, he was able to keep his composure while playing his first two NHL games ever, hold down the goal, and do some damage control for the team.
Oettinger still isn’t quite 100 percent ready for long-term NHL play and still has a ways to go in his development. Under better circumstances in a world without COVID-19, it would be in his best interest to spend at least another season in the AHL.
However, sadly that’s not the world we’re living in. While the AHL does have a projected start date of Feb. 5, the fact that there will be an AHL season isn’t quite set in stone.
If there isn’t an AHL season, being selected as the NHL backup would be ideal for Oettinger. He would still be able to continue to grow and learn as a player while simultaneously getting NHL experience which would benefit him greatly in his development.
If there is an AHL season, the Stars could opt to let him get more experience at that level (which would still benefit Oettinger) and have Landon Bow back up Khudobin in the early going of the season.
All of this could completely change in the blink of an eye depending on whether or not the NHL start date stands, if the AHL does have a season, how Oettinger performs at training camp, and frankly, who the Stars trust more to show up for them in such a bizarre time.
So while it’s hard to say who exactly the Stars should choose as their temporary backup as of right now, Oettinger could definitely end up being that guy.