EDMONTON -- The Pittsburgh Penguins would have preferred to see Tristan Jarry play more before selecting him in the second round of 2013 NHL Draft.
Yet, had Jarry not been a backup with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League last season, he may not have been available to the Penguins with the No. 44 pick.
"Having him play more probably would have made our job a little easier," Penguins co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said. "But the flip side is, had he played a lot a more he might not have dropped to us in the second round. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. We were fortunate that we have one of our western scouts, Wayne Meier, that lives in Edmonton. Wayne was on top of it whenever he did play.
"We got, I think, as many viewings as anybody and felt comfortable, when the time came in the second round, that he was the guy that we really wanted and were fortunate enough to get him."
Jarry, 18, had to bide his time before becoming a starter. The Delta, British Columbia, product caddied for Laurent Brossoit in his first two years. Brossoit, now a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization, backstopped the Oil Kings to a WHL championship and then a berth in the league final the following season.
A look at Tristan Jarry
Tristan Jarry, G, Edmonton Oil Kings
6-foot-2, 180 pounds
Selected in the second round (No. 44) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 NHL Draft
Delta, British Columbia
2013-14 WHL stats:
33 GP, 22-10-1, 2.23 GAA, .914 save percentage.
According to NHL scouts:
Has good size and athletic ability. Good demeanor, keeps an even keel. Does a good job of not getting too high or too low about his play, a very important trait for a goaltender.
Needs to work on:
Strength in order to get into proper positions at the NHL level. Technical foundation and technique tracking the puck.
"I learned a lot from [Brossoit]," Jarry said. "He showed me how to stay composed and keep an even keel, whether you are up or down. I learned a lot from his composure and his work ethic in practice. You really have to work hard to get what you want, and that's probably the biggest thing that he taught me.
"I think it helped playing behind him. You get to sit behind one of the best goalies in the WHL, and that really helped me just to see his ups and downs and how he handled it, and I think that made me a better person as well."
Jarry has learned those lessons and become an outstanding starting goaltender with a 22-10-1 record, 2.23 goals-against average and .914 save percentage with four shutouts.
"I think last year was a great learning experience for Tristan," Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal said. "Probably in a perfect world you would have liked to see him get 30, 35 games as a 17-year-old. Can you imagine how good he would be now?
"But playing behind [Brossoit] he got a taste for what it means to backstop your team through a successful season and he's getting a chance to do that right now. He's been a big part of our success so far. That learning experience backing up will pay off huge this year."
Ideally, Jarry would have preferred a starting role going into his draft year, allowing scouts ample opportunity to evaluate him. Regardless, he made the most of his opportunities last season with an 18-7-0 record, 1.61 GAA, .936 save percentage and six shutouts.
It was good enough for the Penguins, who made him the second-highest goaltender selected in the draft behind Zachary Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads (No. 36).
"The whole league is going to bigger goalies, and while Tristan is not one of the biggest guys ever, he does have good size along with a real, strong technical foundation," Sexton said. "We felt with those two things combined gave him a real, good underpinning to grow into the starting goalie we believe he can be.
"We didn't see any major flaws in Tristan's game. But the issue is, until you're a starter, you never know whether the player can handle what it takes to be a starter. Tristan played behind Brossoit, so we understood why he wasn't playing. But that's one of the challenges for Tristan this year, not only to assume the role of starter, but to handle it successfully."
Admittedly, Jarry had a rough start to the season when the Oil Kings went through a transition stage adjusting to the loss of a number of key players, including Brossoit. But as his play improved, so did the Oil Kings' and they are in a familiar position near the top of the standings.
"I thought I had a little bit of a slow start this year, but things are getting better," Jarry said. "They're starting to roll for me and I'm starting to work on my consistency. That's the biggest thing for me is trying to keep that.
"I have basically the same approach I did last year. I would come to the rink and prepare the same as I would if I were playing. This year it's the same, I want to earn my starts and I want coach to see that I'm trying hard in practice and I want him to play me."
Jarry has played in 33 of the Oil Kings' 36 games this season. He was also part of the Subway Super Series suiting up for Team WHL against Team Russia in late November.
"He's very grounded," Laxdal said. "He goes about his business the same every day whether he's having good days or bad days. He's got a really good approach to the game. He doesn't let the highs get too high and the lows get too low."
Looking to restock their goaltending stable, the Penguins have added a number of talented prospects to their system. They believe Jarry has all the tools to become a quality starting goaltender in the NHL, but there is still a long road ahead of him.
"Everyone who knows Tristan knows that he's a very positive and upbeat young man, but as it relates to his game I think he has that maturity and mental strength to keep things in perspective on both sides of the equation," Sexton said. "From a sure athleticism perspective, he has to get stronger. NHL shooters have better shots, and they release the puck quicker. So he has to be stronger to make sure he can get his movements to a position where he can actually makes saves on NHL shooters. He needs to continue to work on his technical foundation.
"We have worked with him to develop his puck tracking, something we felt needed work on. It wasn't so much his desire to track the puck or his focus to track the puck, but the technique in which to track the puck in certain situations. It's not a coincidence since his play has gotten better, some of it stems from his better puck tracking. That's a real positive sign for us, because we know he has the physical talent to do it and he's taken the mature mental approach to work on his game every day and work at it."
Jarry knows the NHL is still a few years away. He has another year of junior eligibility beyond this season before turning pro, but he did get a taste of it this fall when he earned an invite to the Penguins' main camp.
"That was a bit of an eye-opener," he said. "You have to stop for a minute and realize you are on the ice with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But after that, I thought I settled in and I thought I was very good.
"But right now, the NHL is something I'm not really too worried about. I'm here with the Oil Kings and this is my team. Come next year, I'll go to camp and try to have a good camp again, then come back with the Oil Kings and have another good year."