Anton Khudobin becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and the assumption among Stars fan and media seems to be that one of the Stars multiple young goalie prospects will step up and become the heir apparent to Ben Bishop.
This Saturday I made my second trip of the season to Cedar Park to watch the Texas Stars. On October 19th (the night of veteran player Travis Morin’s jersey retirement) I watched Jake Oettinger post the first career shutout of his professional career.
This time it was Landon Bow’s turn. So, what to do the AHL goalies look like at this early stage of the season?
Bow let in 4 goals and was pulled early in the 2nd. I’ll admit, having watched Bow play for the Texas Stars since 2016, I’ve long had my doubts about whether or not he is a legitimate prospect as an NHL goalie. Having spent the summer apparently working with the Dallas Stars goalie coach and Ben Bishop he had a strong prospect camp and preseason, but in the regular season it seems like he hasn’t managed to maintain his early strong form and his save percentage is in the bottom half of all AHL goalies. At times on Saturday night his puck tracking, particularly from shots at a distance, seemed suspect which just doesn’t suggest NHL ready goalie.
Jake Oettinger to me has the higher ceiling of the two AHL goalies. The Stars’ 2017 first-round pick is a big-bodied presence in the net, his lateral movement is good and he seems to track the puck extremely well. However, Oettinger has played a grand total of 13 games so far in his professional career and is on track to play around 38 games this season, his save percentage early on in the AHL season is only marginally better than that of Landon Bow. It seems a little risky to hand the role of back-up to a young prospect with less than 50 professional games. Although I’m optimistic at this stage that Oettinger will be a legitimate NHL goalie with time
Which brings us to Anton Khudobin. OT loss to Winnipeg this weekend notwithstanding. I’m an unabashed Dobby fangirl, so I may not be entirely unbiased on this, but given the lack of NHL ready goalies, it seems unlikely to me that the Stars aren’t seriously considering re-signing the man that is widely regarded as the best back-up goalie in the league.
Of course, there are other considerations at work, Roope Hintz is coming off his rookie contract and will need to be re-signed. If the young Finnish forward continues his early-season form I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see numbers similar to the contract signed by Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche earlier this season floated for Hintz.
Given how heavily the Stars have leaned on their goaltending last season and in the early part of this one, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Khudobin back in the Stars organization next year.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America