SUN Hockey Pool

Dubnyk looking ahead

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

He was the Edmonton Oilers top pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft - marking only the second time the club has taken a goaltender with their first selection.

The previous guy won five Stanley Cups and has his number hanging from the rafters at Rexall Place.

Devan Dubnyk has yet to play a game in the NHL. And regardless of what he does at training camp this year, he'll start the season with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Springfield.

"Obviously my ultimate goal is to be in the NHL as soon as I can be," Dubnyk said yesterday.

"There is opportunity there, and anything can happen. I just want to keep going. Realistically, Springfield is where I'm going to be.

"I'm looking to get a lot of games in there which I think will be really good, I'm really excited for that. Then maybe next year we'll see what happens."

The 14th overall pick in 2004 is pencilled in to be the starter with the Springfield Falcons. The plan is for him to eventually become the Oilers starter.

Last year, Dubnyk, 22, played 33 games in Springfield in a backup role to Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, posting a 3.12 goals against average.

"At the start it was tough," he said. "You're adjusting to the league. The first half of the year was a little bit frustrating. I wasn't playing much, I was sitting on the bench for two or three weeks at a time.

"It almost felt that every time I got into a game it was a new season. The first 10 or 15 minutes of the opening period was like having to get the jitters out at the beginning of the season.

"That was tough, but I just tried to get through it. Then, I got a big more of an opportunity towards the end of the year."

Tonight, the Regina native is expected to get the start in goal when the Edmonton Oilers rookies take on the Calgary Flames rookies (7 p.m.) at the Encana Arena in Camrose.

"We're probably going to rely on Devan a lot down in Springfield," said Oilers assistant general manger Kevin Prendergast.

"He's going to be the guy, he's going to run with the team and probably get to play 60 games down there. I think between Deslauriers and Dubnyk, we have two blue-chip prospects in goal and it's going to be a big year for both of them."

Heading into main camp next week, the Oilers have plenty of depth in goal with Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson both returning. The team also has to find a place for Drouin-Deslauriers to play.

That depth allows the Oilers to be patient with Dubnyk, who was a junior standout with the Kamloops Blazers before turning pro.

"Obviously, at the goalie position, you have to be even more patient," Dubnyk said. "There are only two goalie spots on the team and you either play or you don't.

"As a young goaltender you have to be careful when they bring you in. You don't want to sit on the bench and not develop."

At rookie camp that experience seems to have already paid dividends.

Dubnyk came into camp in the best shape of his career, which not only helped during the fitness testing on Friday, but has also made him quicker on the ice.

"I'm not built to lift a ton of weight, but in past years I think my body fat was higher than maybe it should be," he said.

"Most years I really just concentrated on the on-ice stuff and this year I wanted to concentrate on some of the off-ice stuff as well."

At six-foot-five, and 194 pounds, Dubnyk is an imposing figure. Getting quicker should make him even more difficult to beat this season and will help him with the extra workload in Springfield.

"I've been a starting goalie before and I know what comes with that," he said.

"It's another level up. Last year was good, even though I didn't play as much as I'd like.

"I got to see the league and I got to play a little bit towards the end, so I know what to expect. I know how to be prepared for every single night.

"That's what makes a good starting goalie. You have to be there every night, regardless of if you're tired or not feeling well."


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