EDMONTON, AB - Mikko Koskinen might be the only goalie in the league without a knob on his stick, with nothing more than a few wraps of blue tape at the end of it.
He doesn't have the time nor the patience.
"That's because I'm too lazy to do it," the Finnish netminder joked following Tuesday's practice at Rogers Place. "I don't do pokechecks too often, so I haven't lost my stick for a while."
What the 6-foot-7 netminder lacks in attention towards taping his twig, he makes up for with an unwavering attention to his craft that's flourished early this season with a 10-2-2 record, a 2.52 goals-against average, and .921 save percentage.
"He works hard," Connor McDavid said of Koskinen's dedication. "He's always the first guy on the ice; he's always doing his stuff before practice as well, working on whatever he's working on. He's a quiet guy, but the guys really like him."
Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 12.03.19
After rooting himself back into the NHL last campaign following extended success in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg, Koskinen is beginning to put the pieces together.
"I think there have been many improvements, but it's tough to say one thing because everything's a small piece," he said. "When you put those small pieces together, then the whole game is improving. It's really tough to tell something big or phenomenal, but it's the small things that have come together."
Head Coach Dave Tippett's introduction to the hulking Finnish netminder through film when named the Oilers bench boss back in May showed that of an overworked asset that needed more time for rest and adjustment.
"I watched a bunch of games where he was really good, then I watched a bunch of games where he was really tired last year," Tippett said. "I came in and said it would be a clean slate, obviously talked to (Goaltending Coach) Dustin Schwartz about him a lot, and basically just said it's up to you to show what you can do."
"He's come in and played very well. Real calm, he practices hard, and he's just dialed in. He's not overthinking the situation and he's been a real good player."
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 12.03.19
Koskinen posted a 25-21-6 record in 55 appearances last campaign - a sizeable workload for a goalie finding familiarity with a new league - regularly being called upon to fulfil both starts in back-to-backs or long stretches of consecutive starts.
"It was getting tough. I played all the back-to-back games and everything, and I didn't have time to find a balance between the practice and games," he said. "Also the workload in practices has been better this year. I haven't been gassed on the ice, so it's been good. I think I've felt sharp every game so far, and I think that's one thing that's been better this year."
The addition of Smith for Koskinen to share the workload this season has helped alleviate last season's burden, and the Finn has made 14 of his team's starts in the '19-20 season through 29 games as one half of the goaltending tandem.
"He's not playing three back-to-backs in a row, so he's fresh," forward Alex Chiasson said. "I feel like you see that trend a lot more this year in the NHL. Teams are using the two goalies trying to make sure guys are fresh, so it's been working well for us and hopefully the two guys stay healthy all year."