It’s been quite a memorable few days for goaltender Jake Oettinger.
His NCAA season ended with a 2-1 overtime loss on Friday, March 22. He signed his entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars and turned pro three days later, on March 25. And then, just five days after that, on March 30, two big milestones: his first professional start and his first professional win.
With Landon Bow up in Dallas to fill in for the injured Ben Bishop, the 20-year-old Oettinger was given one of the Texas Stars’ two back-to-back starts this past weekend and did not disappoint, stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win on Saturday and earning praise for his performance.
Jake Oettinger wins his AHL debut 4-1 and makes 23 saves on 24 shots. Looked comfortable and like he belonged in pro game. Lone mistake was playing puck in corner for penalty. This was best save of the night after turnover in Texas zone pic.twitter.com/jEsUbuwpiA— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) March 31, 2019
How did Oettinger look so good kicking off his professional career? Sean Shapiro’s recent article about the talented young netminder goes into lots of depth and is absolutely worth a read.
Drafting a goaltender in the first round of an NHL draft, which the Stars did in 2017, is always a risk, but you can’t deny the success that Oettinger has had so far in his career, including his cool-as-a-cucumber AHL debut on Saturday. And with his size, his physical tools, and his strong understanding of the position, it’s easy to see the tantalizing potential that he possesses.
Goaltenders take the longest to develop out of any position, so it might still be another whole season or two before Oettinger is ready for an NHL call-up, but he’ll definitely be a prospect worth keeping a close eye on in the AHL going forward.
It was a huge week for the Texas Stars in their ongoing playoff drive, winning both of their games, both of which came against Iowa, a team that’s a few points ahead of them in the Central Division standings.
Texas erased an early two-goal deficit on Friday before pulling away with a 5-2 win, and then used a three-goal third period to claim Saturday’s game.
It was an impressive couple of games for winger Adam Mascherin, who had one goal and three assists. Two of those assists were primary helpers on two of AHL signee Brad McClure’s three third period goals on Saturday, so to say that they were big plays would be an understatement.
Speaking of big plays, center Rhett Gardner notched his first professional goal on Friday night, and it happened to be the game-winner. He also had an assist in the contest.
Rhett Gardner’s 1st pro goal last night was pretty pic.twitter.com/AzXkuAviz5— Texas Stars (@TexasStars) March 30, 2019
Undrafted free agent forward signing Josh Melnick recorded his first professional points as well, picking up an assist in each game.
Beyond them, Nicholas Caamano and Niklas Hansson both scored goals, while Ben Gleason had two helpers.
Texas returns to action for a Friday-Saturday weekend series against the Rockford IceHogs, one of the teams that is currently neck-and-neck with the Stars for one of the few remaining AHL playoff spots.
North American Juniors
Winger Riley Tufte is off to his third straight NCAA Frozen Four with the University of Minnesota-Duluth after the Bulldogs defeated Bowling Green 2-1 in overtime on Friday and then Quinnipiac 3-1 on Saturday. While Tufte’s lack of point totals this season are concerning, the Bulldogs play a pretty tight, professional style of hockey for an NCAA team. As far as development situations go, prospects could do a lot worse. The remaining four teams will now have some time off before the semifinals on April 11 and then the championship game on April 13.
Jason Robertson and the Niagara IceDogs are off to the second round of the playoffs after a 4-1 series win over North Bay. Robertson had two goals and two assists in the five games, as well as a team-high 33 shots on net. Niagara will now face off against a tough Oshawa Generals team in what could easily be a long, hard-fought series.
Top scorer on league’s best offence @DallasStars prospect @JasonRob1999 went to work early for @OHLIceDogs and it was all they needed in series clinching shutout.#OHLPlayoffs | #NIAGvsNB pic.twitter.com/yyx7pfNeLh— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 30, 2019
Tye Felhaber and his Ottawa 67’s club easily dispatched the Hamilton Bulldogs in Round 1 and will now take on the Sudbury Wolves. Like Robertson and the IceDogs, the 67’s will be the favorites in the series. Felhaber has three assists in four games so far.
The Guelph Storm made handy work of the Kitchener Rangers in their opening-round series, sweeping it in four games. Liam Hawel had five points in four games for Guelph. They’ll now have to go through an always-dangerous London Knights team, who swept Curtis Douglas and the Windsor Spitfires in the first round.
Even though the sting of his Kitchener club being eliminated probably still feels fresh, center Riley Damiani will have something else to focus his attention on instead: joining the Texas Stars. The Stars’ fifth round pick in the 2018 draft has been such a pleasant surprise for the team that they signed him to his entry-level contract on Monday. He’s now off to meet up with Texas on a tryout agreement for the remainder of their season.
Dawson Barteaux and Brett Davis were both eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday when the Red Deer Rebels were shut out in their series against the Prince Albert Raiders. Barteaux will return to the Rebels in the fall for another season as a Dallas prospect, but the future of Davis remains uncertain. He likely won’t be receiving a contract from the Stars and will become a free agent.
The magical run that the Kamloops Blazers were on came to an unceremonious end on Monday, in the sixth game in their series against the Victoria Royals. Jermaine Loewen had three goals and three assists in the series.
Jacob Peterson and his Frolunda mates are off to the SHL semifinals after a 4-1 series win over Malmo. Peterson had three points in the five-game series, including his first ever SHL goal, which can be seen here. Their next opponent has yet to be determined.
Albin Eriksson and Skelleftea are currently down 3-2 in their opening playoff series against Djurgarden. Game Six is happening this morning. Eriksson has one goal in the series, and it was quite pretty.