Of the 36 prospects attending Oilers Orientation Camp this week, five are goaltenders.
Goaltending Coach, Dustin Schwartz, and Goaltending Consultant Sylvain Rodrigue have worked with each netminder, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses so each prospect can see the areas that need work and where there is room to improve.
“You kind of take each one as their own individual,” said Schwartz. “Ultimately, whether they’re a part of our organization or not, they’re here. In this moment, you’re working to help them all be better. If they can leave the camp and have a few things improved in their game I think that it benefits everyone.”
Two of the five goaltenders joined the organization this year.
Nick Ellis, 22, was a college free agent and signed a two-year entry level contract in early April. He recorded a 25-7-4 record, a 1.80 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and four shutouts playing for Providence College.
“He’s a wonderful kid, he’s got a great compete level,” said Schwartz. “He never quits on a play. He’s got a few things that he’s aware of and that we talked about even prior to him coming here that he wanted to improve on and we were on the same page right away, so it was good to have that dialogue before he came to camp.”
Meanwhile, Dylan Wells, 18, was selected by the Oilers in the fifth round, 123rd overall, at this years NHL Draft. The goaltender played 27 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes this season, recording a 9-13-3 record, a 4.59 goals against average and .871 save percentage.
“He’s a big kid, he’s pretty athletic for his size, he moves well,” said Schwartz. “There are things in his game that he needs to work on, but he’s still young so I think there’s lots of time to develop some of those skills. We kept it to one thing at a time with him this week, making sure that he understood and continued to build the reps in so he can make it become more of a habit. I think he’s going to put the work in this summer. He’s very diligent, a good athlete off the ice as well so there’s some upside there that I think is definitely a real bright future for him.”
Overall, Schwartz said it was important that he and Rodrigue looked beyond evaluating each netminder and really break down what each goalie could work on to improve their style of play.
“We’ve talked a lot about details in their game and development and for the importance of moving and take the next step in their career for some of them that’s going to be taking on a start job this year, for others its going from college to play pro hockey,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations and all of them have been receptive.”