ECHL - Western

Former ECHL Goalie Stuart Skinner Soaks In Experience As NHL All-Star

Former ECHL Goalie Stuart Skinner Soaks In Experience As NHL All-Star

Former Wichita Thunder goalie Stuart Skinner took a winding road to his first NHL All-Star Game appearance.

Feb 5, 2023 by Mike Ashmore
Former ECHL Goalie Stuart Skinner Soaks In Experience As NHL All-Star

SUNRISE, Fla. – As Edmonton Oilers teammates Stuart Skinner and Connor McDavid shared a podium after the Pacific Division’s loss in the 2023 NHL All Star-Game, it was hard not to notice that the majority of the questions were directed towards the latter.

One of the game’s true superstars, McDavid was always supposed to be in this position, developing from one of the most heralded prospects coming in juniors with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters into a perennial All-Star and perhaps inarguably currently the game’s best player.

The path wasn’t as easy for Skinner.

Taken with the 78th overall pick by the Oilers back in 2017, the 24-year-old Edmonton native took a road with a few more stops along the way, which included spending nearly the entirety of his first pro season in the ECHL with the Wichita Thunder in 2018-19. He also returned for a three-game stint with Wichita in 2019-20 after playing in 41 games the year prior.

In his 44 ECHL games with the Thunder, Skinner posted a 17-15-7 career record with a .903 save percentage and four shutouts.

Skinner got a brief call-up to the Oilers in 2020-21, but he really established himself last season in going up and down between Edmonton and the team’s AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. This season, he’s emerged as an NHL regular for the Oilers, platooning primarily with veteran goalie Jack Campbell. 

Skinner has appeared in 28 games this season, posting a .914 save percentage. That was good enough to earn him his first invitation to the NHL All-Star Game, representing Team Pacific alongside teammates McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

As special as it was for Skinner to make it this far, it was hard not to notice McDavid beaming with pride sitting next to him, having seen firsthand what it took for him to get there.

“I met Stu training with (performance coach) Gary Roberts, kind of before we both were even in juniors, so to see where he’s kind of gone with playing in the Coast and having won at every level he’s ever been at, he’s certainly deserving to be here,” McDavid said.

“It’s been a long road, and it’s been cool to kind of follow myself, so I’m definitely happy to be sitting beside him here.”

It was all still sinking in for Skinner, who stopped four of the seven shots he faced in a tandem with fellow ECHL alum Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights in the team’s defeat at the hands of the Central Division. He also had a memorable moment in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition during the weekend's festivities.

“Maybe not so much with how cool it is to be around all these incredible players, but it’s definitely sunk in around the last few days of just getting to be around everybody and be able to hang out and talk to all the guys, so it’s been an unbelievable experience,” Skinner said.

“It’s been really cool just being in the dressing room and chatting with ‘Helly’ (Connor Hellebuyck) and (Juuse) Saros and being able to see the goalies on the East, too. It’s pretty cool that you get to be in a dressing room, and across from you is some unbelievable players.”

After achieving what was surely an early-career highlight as an NHLer, the Edmonton netminder will now look to help the Oilers reach the postseason once again. Edmonton currently sits in the top wild card spot in the Western Conference, but just three points out of first place in the Pacific Division.