Jake Oettinger was drafted by the Dallas Stars at no. 26 overall in 2017. It’s rare to see goaltenders picked early, and the Stars don’t have a good history of drafting goalies in the first round, but it’s clear why management decided to take a chance on Oettinger. He had a great career at Boston University and with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
After spending some time in the AHL with the Texas Stars, Oettinger was called up to the NHL during the Stars’ 2020 Playoff run after Ben Bishop was injured. He remained with the team for the full 2020-21 season, gaining valuable experience at the highest level of the sport.
When the Stars called on the rookie Oettinger to be Anton Khudobin’s backup until Bishop returned, we didn’t quite know what to expect. Before the 2020-21 season, he had no NHL regular-season experience, and due to the Stars’ COVID-19 outbreak at the start of the season, barely any training camp time. But, despite his limited experience, he stepped up at a time when the team desperately needed his help.
The Stars live and die by the next-man-up mentality. When a player can no longer perform their role, whether it’s due to injury or otherwise, another player needs to step up to fill their spot. This mentality has been a difference-maker and has played a huge role in the team’s recent success.
This season, Oettinger was one of many Stars who embodied that mentality. When Bishop was unable to play, and Khudobin needed someone to back him up in net, Oettinger was there. It’s so important for a rookie like Oettinger, who is someone that the Stars will inevitably turn to in the future, to fully embrace the team mentality.
Oettinger Plays a Mature Game
Oettinger is just 22 years old, but you probably wouldn’t know that by watching him play. He plays with the confidence of a netminder with years of NHL experience. Although he still makes the small mistakes that any rookie goaltender falls victim to, he’ll correct those as time goes on and as he gains more experience. Through the 29 games he appeared in, Oettinger never seemed to really crack under pressure.
He knows his abilities and is confident in them, which isn’t always something you see in a rookie. This type of confidence and poise that Oettinger has shown isn’t anything new. His former goaltending coach at Boston University, Brian Eklund, says that he’s always been like that.
“He’s been a kid who hasn’t been afraid to make a tough decision and never really shied away from a tough assignment. He just does a great job of being able to handle that pressure that a lot of people, they have to take time to learn it.”NHL.com
Where Does Oettinger Fit In the Organization Going Forward?
Assuming Bishop can play next season (and stay healthy), Oettinger will more than likely be sent back to Dallas’ AHL affiliate. Oettinger proved to the Stars that he can handle NHL play, which is great. However, rushing his development could prevent him from reaching his full potential, so it’s in his best interest to spend another few seasons in the AHL as he continues to develop.
Oettinger is currently the future for the Stars when it comes to goaltending, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the starter a few years down the line.