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Net gain

2017 draft pick Jake Oettinger a major boost to goaltending pipeline for Stars

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars solidified their present goaltending picture by acquiring Ben Bishop this offseason and then signing him to a six-year contract. The team's goaltending future is looking bright as well, especially with the addition of Jake Oettinger, whom the Stars took with their second pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

The Stars were high enough on Oettinger that they traded up in the draft, moving from the 29th overall pick to 26th to grab the 18-year-old netminder out of Boston University.

"He was one of the top goalies in the draft," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "And he's a guy we wanted bad."

Oettinger was ranked first among North American goalies by NHL Central Scouting, and independent services had him ranked from first to third among goaltenders. The Stars, of course, had him tops on their list.

"He had everything we're looking for in a goaltender," said Joe McDonnell, Stars director of amateur scouting. "He has the size, the athleticism, and the compete level. He had the three checkmarks we were looking at with a goalie, and we got him."

Stars goaltending coach Jeff Reese got an up-close look at the 6-4, 218-pound Oettinger at the team's development camp in July, and he liked what he saw.

"He's a big body, and he has some presence in the net. He's very in control of his game, understands the game. He has a very high hockey IQ," Reese said. "But he has a long way to go. He has a lot of work to do."

That work for Oettinger will continue at Boston University, where he will be a sophomore this coming season. Last season, he posted a 21-11-3 record, 2.11 goals against average and .927 save percentage as a freshman.

Oettinger was superb in the NCAA tournament, stopping 56 shots in a 4-3 double overtime win over North Dakota in the first round of the tournament. But the Terriers couldn't get past Stars prospect Riley Tufte and Minnesota Duluth in the West Regional title game, falling 3-2 in overtime. Overall, it was a stellar first season of college hockey. 

"I was surprised a little at the start [to play so much], but my plan was always to come in there and win the starting job," Oettinger said. "It was just the experience, getting to play 35 games of college hockey."

And that excellent season in college set the stage for the NHL Draft in Chicago, where Oettinger was projected to go in the first or second round.

"It was pretty nerve-racking," Oettinger said. "Through the first 20, 22 picks or so, you can kind of relax and enjoy it. But once your range rolls around, you get a little more nervous. It's so cool to have a team trade up and take you. It says a lot about how they think of me. I couldn't pick a better spot than Dallas, and it's a perfect fit for me."

Oettinger isn't alone in the Dallas goaltending prospect pool. The Stars have Philippe Desrosiers (second round/2013) and Landon Bow (free agent/2017) who are expected to battle it out for playing time behind Mike McKenna for the Texas Stars in the AHL this season. Markus Ruusu (sixth round/2015) will play for Ilves in Finland's top league this coming season, and Colton Point (fifth round/2016) will be a sophomore at Colgate University where he could be the top guy. With Bishop locked up for the long term, the Stars can be patient with Oettinger and the other young goaltenders.

"The six-year term allows a guy like Jake or Desrosiers or Bow to take their time and develop and play," Reese said. "Rather than rushing a kid into a situation that maybe he is not ready for, that's what it allows us to do."

Oettinger is willing to be patient, knowing there is plenty he needs to still work on in the college ranks before he can consider turning pro.

"I can probably give you a laundry list of things I want to get better at before I move onto the next level," Oettinger said. "I think one of the things about the goalies in the NHL is how tough they are mentally and I think that comes with a lot of experience. That's something I am going to learn a lot the next couple years at BU."

Oettinger's development began in Minnesota. He starred at Lakeville High School, posting a 1.86 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 2013-14 and leading his team to the Class 2A state championship game. He raked in some unique postseason honors as well, making an appearance in the Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team video, an annual tradition that is wildly popular.  

"I got honorable mention," he said. "It's one of my proudest hockey moments."

He crossed paths with Tufte when both were playing high school hockey in Minnesota, but the conversation about that is brief.

"I don't really want to talk about it," Oettinger said. "We lost in a shootout my freshman year. But his team didn't make state, so I give him crap about that."

After his freshman year in high school, it was onto the U.S. National Development Program. He put up impressive numbers to help the U.S. take home a silver medal at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and then a bronze medal at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship. He was a part of the USA's gold medal team at the 2017 World Junior Championship, serving as the third goaltender.

"I didn't get to play at the World Juniors, but being part of that team was definitely a learning experience," Oettinger said. "I am just going to try to soak it all in and take positives out of the situation."

Oettinger is on the radar again for the 2018 World Juniors. This weekend, he'll attend the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan where the process of selecting rosters for the 2018 World Juniors gets underway. Then it will be back to Boston University, where there is some unfinished business after falling short in last season's NCAA tournament. And, of course, there will always be an eye on the future and the ultimate goal, making the NHL and being the No. 1 goaltender for the Dallas Stars one day.

"It's just going to come down to how hard I work and how well I play," Oettinger said. "If I continue on the path that I'm on, I think one day that that could be a possibility. But it will be based on how hard I work."

World Junior Summer Showcase

Four Stars prospects are scheduled to take part in the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase, which opens Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Teams from the USA, Canada, Finland, and Sweden are taking part in the event which begins the process of selecting rosters for the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

Dallas prospects at the WJSS are forward Riley Tufte (USA), goaltender Jake Oettinger (USA), forward Jason Robertson (USA), and forward Fredrik Karlstrom (Sweden).

The NHL Network will carry games for the final three days at the World Junior Summer Showcase beginning on August 2.

USA Hockey's site for the WJSS is here.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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