We like Samuel Montembeault, but Jake Oettinger’s brilliant exploits at Dallas are a cruel reminder that he could be Carey Price’s legitimate successor in front of the Canadian net today. Incredible when you think about it.
A snap of the fingers in the first round of the 2017 draft would have settled the situation for the number one goaltender, possibly by the early 2030s. Trevor Timmins were more concerned about their problem in the middle. They selected Ryan Poehling 25th overall.
Shortly thereafter, in 26th place, the Dallas Stars set their sights on Oettinger, the 2017 best goaltender in class. Alea jacta est!
Today, “Jakie O.” is one of the best goalies in the NHL, of any age. Poehling fills in a jersey for the Pittsburgh Penguins if he’s healthy.
We recognize that it’s easy, even unfair, to redo the blueprints a few years later, but if it were just a matter of talent evaluation, we could more easily forgive this misstep to the old state.
Trouble is, Nurturing the goalkeeper of the future has been consistently neglected in Montreal over the years, and in 2017 Bergevin and Timmins missed the jackpot, willfully ignoring the masked 18-year-old.
They felt the selection of a goaltender (Cayden Primeau) could wait until round seven, and it’s safe to say that Bergevin and Timmins would likely have picked another center instead of Oettinger if Poehling hadn’t been available.
We took Price for granted, and yet he lived to be 30. It was the perfect time to design a top goalkeeper. Remember that in the summer of 2017, Al Montoya was Price’s assistant and we were preparing Charlie Lindgren, who passed Zachary Fucale in Saint John’s in the American League.
As for the stars, their duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi peaked. We got rid of Niemi and took on Ben Bishop who gave them three good seasons before they were forced into retirement, just enough time to train Oettinger who is a great learner.
Today, Primeau continues his training with the Laval Rocket, but nothing is certain about his future or potential. Montembeault, who was acquired on waivers in October 2021, is making good progress and establishing himself as an NHL goaltender at 26.
Already among the elite
However, Oettinger is already in the top flight at 24 and he is the best goaltender under 26 ahead of Carter Hart, Stuart Skinner, Logan Thompson, Filip Gustavsson, Ilya Samsonov, Spencer Knight and a few others.
In addition, the former Boston University is the only youngster who has excelled in the playoffs. He was fabulous in the first round of the 2022 playoffs with seven quality performances (3-4 / .954 / 1.81) despite his team’s seven-game elimination against the Flames.
Oettinger raised expectations and he could have easily fallen after signing his starting contract on September 2 ($4 million a year for three seasons), but he’s been showing up night after night and has become intimidating, the hallmark of great goalies. His record of 23-7-7/.926/2.22 is eloquent.
Ullmark in danger
If the stars are at the top of the Central Division, that’s largely due to Oettinger, third in our top 30 behind Linus Ullmark and Connor Hellebuyck.
We invite you to follow our newsletter because, despite his good statistics, Ullmark is in danger. His rotation with Jeremy Swayman is expected to limit him to 48, 49 or 50 games, while Hellebuyck and Oettinger are likely to surpass the 60 mark.