Oilers prospect on a roll
It’s hard to improve on a month that included a 31-save shutout to clinch a Western Hockey League championship and signing a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, but Stuart Skinner has a chance to do just that.
Winning a Memorial Cup would top everything and the Edmontonborn goalie has his Swift Current Broncos on the threshold of junior hockey’s ultimate prize.
“It’s been the best few of days of my life and I’m super excited to keep that going,” said the 19-yearold, who was blindsided by his first pro contract. “It was an exciting surprise, an incredible moment for me and my family. I didn’t really see it coming, but I got a call and a couple of days later I signed. And I won a championship. It was a pretty crazy and exciting few days. I just enjoyed it all.”
And it’s not over. The Broncos are one of four teams competing at the Memorial Cup, which begins Friday in Regina.
It’s been a long, gruelling, drama-filled trip to get there — the Broncos played a league record 26 games (seven, seven, six and six) in the four series — but it’s totally worth it and the tournament hasn’t even started yet.
“It took us a lot, we didn’t have anything easy,” said Skinner. “The first round was Regina, who battles every night, is super hard to play against and has a really strong team.
“Then it was the best team in the WHL and second-best team in the CHL rankings (the Moose Jaw Warriors) and we were able to beat them in seven games as well.”
Next up was Lethbridge, the team Skinner spent 31/2 years with before being moved to Swift Current at the trade deadline.
“It was tough, a lot of emotions,” he said. “It’s not easy when the Lethbridge fans are booing you and you’re getting chirped by your old friends.
“But it’s all part of the game. I’m just happy that I wasn’t doing it alone and had support from the two other guys (Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel) who came with me in the trade. It was tough but we got the job done and that’s all that matters.”
In the WHL final, a 2-3-2 format, they lost the first game at home to Everett, putting themselves in an immediate, and deep, hole.
“We knew we couldn’t lose the second game at home, and that we had to win two of three in Everett,” said Skinner. “It was a really hard battle, a really good series. Every single game was close, a one-goal game.
“It was tough to get here but that makes it all the more special. All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it.” They won’t have to go very far for the Memorial Cup, just down the road to Regina, but they’ve been waiting their entire hockey lives to get there.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Skinner. “Obviously, it’s going to be difficult, not everything is going to be perfect and go our way, but our team has been through a lot of adversity this whole year, through the whole playoffs, and we’ve just come out stronger at the other end. We’re excited to get our chance.
“With all the character we have in that dressing room and everything we’ve been through, we know how to deal with anything that comes at us. It’s been a very special group we have.”
He’s been a big part of that group, posting six shutouts in the playoffs, along with a 2.20 GAA and .932 save percentage. His performance on the big stage has to be
It was tough to get here but that makes it all the more special. All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it.
making the Oilers excited. They haven’t had much luck developing goalies, but their third-round pick (78th overall) from 2017 is looking solid so far.
But while playing in the new arena with Connor McDavid might be in his future one day, it’s not in his thoughts right now. He has more important games to focus on.
“I don’t need to be thinking about that right now,” he said with a laugh. “It’s in the back of your mind that you signed your first contract and you have the opportunity to be playing pro some day, it’s something you dreamed about.
“But right now I’m only dreaming about winning this battle with my team. It’s sad, but I only have a couple more weeks with the Swift Current Broncos. It’s tough to hear. I’m excited to finish the post-season off with this family.”
Where will he play next year? The Oilers gave him no indication of where they’d like that to be.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he said. “I’m kind of being left alone to focus on what I have in front of me here.”
Swift Current goalie Stuart Skinner hoists the Ed Chynoweth Cup following his team’s 3-0 win over the Everett Silvertips in Game 6 of the WHL final on Sunday. With the win, the Broncos will play in the Memorial Cup, junior hockey’s ultimate prize,...