Jake Oettinger was the biggest unsung hero of the 2022 NHL Playoffs. He led his team, the Dallas Stars, to a Game 7 overtime and then took a gut-punch loss to the Calgary Flames. He will learn from this. The Dallas Stars will learn from this.
I ranked the goalie 29th in the 2017 NHL Draft class, and here is what I said about him. And understand, I’m no goalie expert. Goalies are voodoo.
29. Jake Oettinger – 6-4, 204 – G – Smooth lateral movements. Eats rebounds. Takes good angles. Has to work on closing the 5-hole better. Good on breakaways doesn’t panic. Nice easy movements on low shots. Directs rebounds to his players well. Sees in traffic. Decent play in the Beanpot.
I was asked right before the 2017 NHL Draft started on the NHL Network Radio pre-show, will there be a goalie drafted in the first round? I said Oettinger will be. I was right because it seemed like a no-brainer for some team near the end of the first round.
So, Oettinger gets drafted 26th overall and started to pay dividends in Dallas in 2019-20. Smartly, Dallas made sure Oettinger got 44 games in the AHL after turning pro and saying goodbye to Boston University.
Then Anton Khudobin got in the way, and later Braden Holtby. Now 23, I did say I felt the young goalie was getting yo-yo’d last season, but at least he got in an additional 10 AHL games bringing his total to 54 games. That was good. What was worse, was the fact that the Stars were going with the quick fix in Holtby when they had the answer in house all along. Were they protecting him, maybe?
Oettinger made 64 saves on 67 shots in his final game of 2022, unless he joins the World Championships. Oettinger was almost superhuman. He couldn’t have done any more. He gave it his all.
Oettinger is now an elite American goalie and should be listed as such when the next Olympics are being discussed. His name wasn’t on the horizon before that, but it is now, and don’t expect that to change.
Oettinger is a reason you can never say don’t draft a goalie in the first round. To say that as a blanket statement or a rule is foolish. If an NHL team or teams identify a goalie as a possible #1 franchise goalie, then you spend the pick and roll the dice. Will it happen in every draft? No, but don’t say it because there are goalies that are worthy of it and the trick of it is when a team identifies that. Oettinger is proof positive.