September 13, 2004
'Tenders at a tender ageOilers sport a pair of ripe goalie prospects
By ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun
On a morning one reporter waited while Robbie Schremp spent an extra half-hour working with Kelly Buchberger after most players had left the ice at Millennium Place, the other scribe had to decide which one of the Edmonton Oilers two blue-chip goaltending prospects to talk to first. Yes, two. At the same camp. Pluck out my eyes. I've seen everything.
While Schremp has received most of the attention and much of the ink the past three days, with 30 top prospects taking a twirl in town, puck-stoppers Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk might be the real story in the long run.
Hands up, everybody who remembers a time when the Oilers had two prospects between the pipes packing the potential of Drouin-Deslauriers and Dubnyk, the team's first pick, 14th overall, at the Entry Draft last June.
"You have to go back to when we took Grant Fuhr, when you could be that confident with a young goaltender," chief scout Kevin Prendergast said. "Now, we have two."
Without even one legit prospect three years ago, when depth in the crease started and ended with Tommy Salo - in the days when he could still stop pucks - Prendergast and the Oilers brass just watched the new duo stare each other down from opposite ends of the rink.
Drouin-Deslauriers, 20, taken 31st overall from Chicoutimi in the 2002 Entry Draft, will be the first to arrive. He'll be the top stopper with the Edmonton Road Runners this season.
Dubnyk, 18, will be back in Kamloops with the Blazers by the time the Road Runners open camp, but I get the feeling he won't be far behind.
"It's been a weakness in our organization," admits assistant GM Scott Howson, who signed Drouin-Deslauriers on May 31, three weeks before Dubnyk was taken at the draft.
"We had very little in terms of young goalies. We had Tommy, and Ty (Conklin) was an older player coming out of college. We had no blue-chip prospects. Now we think we have two."
Drouin-Deslauriers, who went 21-20-6 with one shutout and a 2.87 goals-against average in 50 games in 2003-04, his third full season with the Sagueneens, is the real goods.
He showed a hint of that straight up against Dubnyk. He'll give fans another look against the U of A Golden Bears tomorrow.
"I think that I'm ready to turn pro," Drouin-Deslauriers said after backstopping Team White to a 3-1 victory over Dubnyk and Team Blue in yesterday's scrimmage. "I give 100 per cent each time I'm on the ice and I've tried to improve myself."
With two training camps under his belt, the soft-spoken Drouin-Deslauriers knows that expectations are greater now, but he's one cool customer.
"I just try to think about doing my job," he said. "I just do it as well as I can and I don't think about the other things. I try not to over-think things, but it's a great feeling that people are watching us. This is a hockey town."
Dubnyk, who is every inch the six-foot-five he's listed at and wears size 13 skates, won't keep Conklin and Jussi Markkanen company in the crease for a season or two, but this skyscraper disguised with a mask and blocker has immense potential.
"The thing I wanted to focus on coming here was to make sure I had open eyes and open ears," said Dubnyk, who'll start against the Calgary Flames rookies tonight at Clare Drake Arena.
"I wanted to learn as much as I could from the coaching staff. I wanted to come and get my feet wet and get better."
Dubnyk, 20-18-5 with six shutouts and a 2.51 GAA with a so-so team in Kamloops last season, is just the second goaltender the Oilers have drafted in the first round. The other is Fuhr, inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. No pressure, kid.
"For me, for any player who goes in the first round, there's going to be some pressure," said Dubnyk, who looked bad on the 2-1 goal by Team White yesterday. "I just want to play like I can and show why they took me.
"I know I'm going back to Kamloops. I came just wanting to learn as much I can, take it back there and improve my game."
Drouin-Deslauriers and Dubnyk both had their moments during the three days of scrimmages in Sherwood Park.
There will, rest assured, be more to come from both of them.
"We have one young goalie in Drouin-Deslauriers, who we know we're going to be able to build with," Prendergast said. "We have a second one, who we have time build with."