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DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

DEVAN DUBNYK

HE'S BIG, HE'S QUICK AND HE'S THE GOALIE THE OILERS TOOK WITH THEIR FIRST PICK IN THE 2004 NHL ENTRY DRAFT

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The Edmonton Oilers are hoping Devan Dubnyk is next in the line of great goaltenders for the club.

That's why they took the Regina native with their first pick (14th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Dubnyk, currently playing with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, is the second-highest rated goaltender ever chosen by the Oilers in the draft. Grant Fuhr was chosen 8th overall in 1981.

"He's got a lot of upside," said Oilers assistant general manager Scott Howson. "He's a big guy. Positionally he's very sound. He's had a good career in Kamloops.

''He hasn't played behind a lot of good teams, but he's been pretty consistent in the way he's performed. He's given them a chance to win a lot of games that they probably shouldn't have over his career."

At six-foot-five, 194 pounds, Dubnyk is big by goaltending standards. Combined with quickness and a good competitive nature, he's considered one of the best junior goaltenders in the country.

This past Christmas, Dubnyk backed up Justin Pogge at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

"He's been our backbone for the last couple of years and gives us a chance to win hockey games," said Blazers head coach and general manager Dean Clark.

"He takes up a lot of the net. But he's also a quick goalie. He doesn't just have the size, he's got the quickness to get across and do some good things that way, too."

THE BLAZERS MVP

According to Clark, Dubnyk is the Blazers most valuable player this season. Without the 19 year-old goaltender, Kamloops would not be in contention for a playoff spot.

In 47 games, Dubnyk has faced over 1,300 shots. He's averaging close to 30 shots a night.

"When he sticks those big legs out, there's not a lot of room on the ice to score," Clark said. "He covers a lot of the net. And he's very competitive, and that's the biggest thing to being a good goalie."

Dubnyk has all the tools to become a solid NHL goaltender. That's the reason he was the second goalie chosen in the 2004 draft behind Al Montoya (6th, New York Rangers).

"The thing with Devan is that he's a good person, he's got a real good head on his shoulder about things," Clark said. "Some guys who are first-round picks carry themselves a little differently because they are that.

''But Devan is very grounded and understands where he's at and that getting picked in the first round doesn't means he's going to play. He still has to work hard to achieve that."

Being a first-round pick may not guarantee playing time, but it does come with its share of expectations.

Especially considering what the last goaltender the Oilers chose in the first round did.

BIT OF PRESSURE

Fuhr is now in the Hall of Fame.

"I think right after the draft, I might have felt a little bit of pressure," Dubnyk said. "There are a whole lot of expectations out there.

''But over the last few years I think I've matured and realized that it's just a pick, it's exciting it happened and it is going to give me a good chance.

"Nothing at that level is just given to you. There are way too many good players out there to have someone just hand it to you at that level. I have to continue to work to get there and continue to get better every day."

Having attended a couple of Oiler camps already, Dubnyk has had a glimpse of what it takes to make it.

He's also had the luxury of working with Oilers goaltending coach Pete Peters - a pretty good puck stopper in his day.

"I really enjoyed the experience of training camp this year. I felt like I learned a lot," Dubnyk said. "Coming back I wanted to do the very best I could to not have a slump coming out of the training camp.

"Last year I got a ton of work and a lot of shots, which I believed really helped me. Going into this year, I wanted to be more successful in the wins column and team-wise."

So far he has. A year ago, Dubnyk played in all but seven games for the Blazers, yet only managed to accumulate 23 wins. The Blazers got into the WHL playoffs, but were dispatched in six games by Kootenay.

This year Dubnyk had 24 wins going into the weekend, having played 47 games.

"He's having a real solid year," Clark said. "He's probably why, through the first two-thirds of the year, we were able to stay close and be in the playoff hunt."


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