Odd Man Rush: Oilers giving homegrown Scrivens a chance
By Michael Rushton, NHL Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - On paper, Ben Scrivens' reward for playing like a starting goaltender during his brief stint with the Los Angeles Kings may appear to be fool's gold.
After all, Scrivens is going from a Kings club that is built to win a championship now to an Oilers club that is stuck in neutral and in danger of landing yet another top pick in the upcoming draft.
The styles couldn't be more different. Los Angeles plays sound defense as evident by its NHL-leading 1.96 goals per game allowed, while Edmonton has invested high draft picks in forward after forward, making sacrifices on the back end to the tune of a league-high 3.52 goals per game allowed.
That doesn't matter to the 27-year-old Scrivens. What does matter is the chance to solidify himself as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
"He's hungry, that's for sure," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said of his new goaltender. "Ben's trying to establish himself in this league. He believes that he can be a very good goaltender in this league. I was able to watch part of his development and he's extremely dedicated to his craft, he's a real technical guy, he's an intelligent kid and a guy of high character."
Scrivens, a pending unrestricted free agent, is likely to get a long look by the Oilers after they acquired him from the Kings on Wednesday for a third- round pick in the 2014 draft. It's a chance he has been playing for.
"It was a little bit of a shock. I definitely didn't anticipate it but I would be lying if I said it wasn't something I was hoping for," Scrivens said of the trade. "It's going to be a fun experience playing back at home."
Born in Spruce Grove, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton's city limits, Scrivens went undrafted out of Cornell despite a solid career in which he was an ECAC First-Team All-Star, won the Ken Dryden Award as the league's top goaltender and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as a senior in 2009-10.
He was signed by Toronto on April 28, 2010 and helped the Maple Leafs' minor league team reach the Calder Cup Final in 2011-12, a team coached by Eakins.
He also spent some time with the Maple Leafs that season and then appeared in 20 games with the big-league club in 2012-13. He went 7-9-0 with a 2.69 goals against average, but showed flashes of potential during a scoreless streak of 151 minutes, 46 seconds, posting two shutouts.
But the goaltending position was a hot topic in Toronto and the Maple Leafs pounced when they had the opportunity to trade for the more established and touted Jonathan Bernier, getting him from the Kings in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, Scrivens and a future second-round pick.
Though the trade pretty much guaranteed Scrivens would be playing at the NHL level, he was firmly entrenched in the backup role behind Jonathan Quick, a world-class goaltender signed through 2022-23. But opportunity emerged when Quick suffered a groin strain in mid-November, thrusting Scrivens into the spotlight.
Scrivens won his first four starts after Quick got hurt, giving up just four goals while posting a pair of shutouts. Overall, he went 5-0-3 in his first eight outings after the injury to Quick before finally suffering a regulation defeat on Nov. 30 despite giving up just two goals.
But with chance came bad luck. Martin Jones, recalled from the minors to back up Scrivens and with no previous NHL experience, put together a run that made him the talk of the NHL. The undrafted 24-year-old got a chance to spell Scrivens and ended up winning his first eight career starts from Dec. 3-21, notching three shutouts in that span.
When Quick came back, Jones was temporarily the odd man out before the Kings found a taker for Scrivens, who went 7-5-4 with a 1.97 GAA, .931 save percentage and three shutouts in 19 games with the Kings.
That came in the form of an Oilers team that hasn't had a goaltender win 30 games in a season since Tommy Salo in 2001-02.
"He really emerged when Jonathan Quick went down to injury the first time," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish told his team's official website. Ben came in and played outstanding in relief of Jonathan. He was really making a case for himself as a No. 1 NHL goaltender in those starts that he had. That caught everybody's attention and that's what's given him this great opportunity."
Edmonton spent a 2004 first-round pick on goaltender Devan Dubnyk, but he was never able to grab a firm hold of the No. 1 spot. The Oilers signed netminder Ilya Bryzgalov in November and eventually dealt Dubnyk to Nashville on the same day they acquired Scrivens.
Bryzgalov was signed for just a season, so both he and Scrivens are playing for 2014-15 roles somewhere.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity for both of these goalies to not only addition for our team and grab a spot, but to audition for the league," Eakins noted. "Both of these young men should be doing everything they can to stand on their head, steal games, really have our team take notice to put us in a spot where we're looking to extend them or have other teams knocking on their door come July 1."
Despite Eakins' description, Bryzgalov isn't exactly young. In fact, he turns 34 this summer, so the Oilers obviously have a bigger eye on the younger Scrivens, even if he isn't counting out his older teammate.
"(Bryzgalov has) proven he can be a starter in this league and that he's excelled at it," Scrivens said. "To write him off would be a huge mistake. I'm hoping to come in and play when I'm called upon but at the same time be a good teammate. Hopefully, Bryz and I can bring some stability to the back end and should be a good tandem.
"As far as who plays, that's out of our control. That's up to the coaching staff."
Eakins didn't waste any time giving Scrivens his first start with the Oilers, turning to the netminder on Thursday night in Minnesota. It was an unsuccessful debut, with Scrivens making 29 saves in a 4-1 loss to the Wild.
"I felt pretty good, but I need to find a way to make another save or two for the guys here. Every game at this point of my career is another chance for me to develop and get better," Scrivens said.
If Scrivens can thrive on an inferior Oilers team, he will have certainly earned the chance to be the team's goaltender of the future.
DUBNYK ON OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
While Scrivens is going to get a chance to win a starting job in Edmonton, Dubnyk also finds himself playing for a job next season.
Dubnyk always seemed to be option 1A in Edmonton, even this season when the Oilers opened with both he and Jason LaBarbera, never a No. 1 netminder at the NHL level, on the roster.
Dubnyk got the bulk of the work during last season's lockout-shortened campaign and went 14-16-6 with a 2.57 GAA in 38 games (37 starts). He went just 11-17-2 with a 3.36 GAA in 32 games (29 starts) this season and the lack of confidence was written on the wall when Bryzgalov was signed.
"At the time it was surprising, but with the perception and the pressures of how the season was going at the time -- I hadn't been my best and you kind of knew there was something was coming," Dubnyk said on the day of the trade to Nashville. "So when it happened, it was just one of those things you accept, it's done and you move forward."
The deal to Nashville ensures Dubnyk will hit free agency this offseason. After all, the Predators signed Pekka Rinne to a seven-year contract on Nov. 3, 2011 and were only in the market for Dubnyk due to a nasty hip infection that has sidelined Rinne since late October.
There is no timetable for Rinne's return and the Predators had been using a pair of rookies in Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec in his place.
"For right now, this is an opportunity to play a lot of games for a good hockey club and I'm excited for that," Dubnyk said.
"Obviously, Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the league and he's locked up for a long time. That's not for me to worry about right now. He's struggling with an extremely unfortunate circumstance with the way that injury has played out and for right now this is an opportunity for me to go and play from now until the end of the year. We'll see where that takes me. That's all that I need to worry about right now."
He also won't have to worry about impressing the Oilers any longer.
01/17 12:25:44 ET