EDMONTON, AB - Goaltenders Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner rode the carousel in their first year of professional hockey.
The netminders split time in the ECHL and AHL with the Wichita Thunder and Bakersfield Condors in their debut pro seasons, dipping their toes into the water at both levels to gain as much experience and playing time as possible.
"It was nice to have Wellsy with me, being able to push each other and getting called up and down with each other," Skinner said Wednesday at Oilers Development Camp. "I think it was a good experience for both of us to get our feet wet in our first year to really understand how the pro mentality works.
"As weird as it sounds, it was a lot of fun moving up and down and seeing the different levels. It was hard work on both sides, so it's good to get a lot of games in the ECHL and then be able to get called up to the AHL and play some games there."
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For Oilers Goaltending Coach Dustin Schwartz, all they can provide as staff at Development Camp is a platform. The finishing touch comes from the goalies applying their lessons learnt in game situations, and they can never have too much time in the crease.
"I think any time they get to play games, it's huge for their development," Schwartz said. "I think the one thing that the organization did a good job of was using Wichita as a resource moving them up and down between Bakersfield and Wichita. It gave them opportunities to play, and there's no better development getting them playing and that experience under their belt."
The pair were given plenty of opportunity to ride the highs and lows of their first foray into the professional ranks with the support of one another and the staff of Schwartz and Condors Goaltending Coach Sylvain 'Sly' Rodrigue, who was in Bakersfield for the first time on a full-time basis this past campaign.
"There are ups and downs as always, and it's just taking learning experience everywhere you go through and applying it to your game," Wells, who's taking part in his fourth Development Camp, said. "We had great support system with Schwartzy and Sly, and myself and Stuart kind of went through it together from the same situation. Looking back on it now and having some time to reflect, it was a really good experience and I'm happy with how it unfolded.
"There's big strides to be made next year."
Video: DEV CAMP | Dylan Wells
Both Skinner and Wells earned what could've been their biggest achievements in their first seasons during the AHL postseason, as both netminders earned starts during the Condors second-round series against the San Diego Gulls.
"Huge," Woodcroft said of the growth experienced by both netminders this season. "I thought both of them proved that they could win at the AHL level. They came in during the regular season at different times and gave us a shot in the arm that was needed at different points of the season.
"I thought what really boded well for their personal development was our confidence in wanting to use them, feeling comfortable using them in playoff games. The experience they learned in that second-round playoff series was invaluable and I think it sets them up for a good summer."
Skinner was grateful after learning he'd make his first Bakersfield postseason start on the bus prior to Game 5 of the AHL Pacific Division Finals, and is using the moment to find gratefulness in every aspect of life and his career.
Video: DEV CAMP | Stuart Skinner
"Ever since that happened, I learned a lot from our trainer Patrick Love and he was telling me 'Always be grateful for every opportunity you get no matter what,'" Skinner said. "You can be grateful for everything. Waking up and getting to breathe, you can be grateful for that, and just being able to play hockey and the game I love to play.
"Now that I'm realizing that and how lucky I am as a person, every day I'm stepping on the ice is a dream come true and I'm doing it to the best of my ability. What else could I ask for?"