The goalkeeper signed a three-year, $12 million contract (average annual value of $4 million) with the Dallas Stars on September 1, his number 1 entry into the season. It’s a huge jump for the 23-year-old, who started last season as fourth on the goalkeeper’s depths chart for stars and played in the Major League Hockey League but finished as an NHL starter.
“It’s a new situation for me,” Oettinger said earlier this month during the NHL North American Player Media Tour in Henderson, Nevada. “I never went into an NHL season expecting to be the number one and it would be really exciting to take on more responsibility.”
When Ben Bishop And the Braden Holtby was injured and Anton Khadobin Struggling last season, Oettinger got his chance and made an impact, scoring 30-15-1 with 2.53 goals-to-average, 0.914 saves and one closing in 48 regular season games (46 games).
The Stars nearly reached the second round of the Western Conference during the Stanley Cup playoffs when he saved 64 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the first round. It was 3-4 with 1.81 GAA and .954 percentage saves and one close in seven postseason starts.
Expectations are high this season, and stars say Oettinger is ready.
Captain Dallas “I think we saw that last year. I mean he was the guy” Jimmy Ben He said. “He’s very calm there. He loves to push, he does his job. He’s a real professional, he has a great relationship with Jeff Reese, our goalkeeper coach, and he’s determined to win. I think the sky’s the limit.”
Many of Oettinger’s best traits, including his playability, have been apparent for some time. Boston Bruins goalkeeper Jeremy Swayman He saw them when Oettinger’s teammate was with the US at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships.
“We were very young, but he was technically good,” said Swayman, who played against Oettinger when he was at the University of Maine and Oettinger at Boston University.
“I’ve always found him to be a good skater, he’s a crazy athlete and I think he’s going to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league for a really long time. Getting to know him personally and playing against him is fun. I got to play against him in [NHL] Until now. I hope to win against him this year.”
Calm demeanor is also characteristic of Oettinger. Reese said that was evident during the regular season, but stood out during the playoffs.
“I haven’t seen a lot of goalkeepers, especially at that age, who enjoyed every second, and I mean he enjoyed the competition, every second, in the playoffs,” Reese said. “He had a smile on his face and he loved it. He absolutely loved it.
“He doesn’t go up much, he doesn’t go down much. He has a great attitude as the number one. He can also play a lot of games physically as well. He showed that last year.”
To deal with the pregnancy physically, Oettinger worked for the second straight out of the season with mobility coach Grace Witthuhn. Most of their focus, she said, is on Oettinger’s hip movement, “protecting the groin area from bullets, as this is a common problem area for goalkeepers, hip abduction, and internal rotation.”
“In my world, that’s how we get into the deeper tissues, and it allows for more space to open up, and we’re also focusing on spinal rotation,” Wittun said. “So he can face the hips in one direction, but he can reach and twist in the other direction hopefully without getting injured. It’s a lot of consistency, and for hours on end.”
“I’ve said since the day he started with me that I wish others, especially young athletes, would understand the importance of having a good body not just for your sport. He has a really good understanding. The work he does will pay off much longer, much further when his time is up. With the NHL. I’m a big fan; he’s so young and he has such a really good look.”
Oettinger has also focused on improving his handling of the disc, an aspect that Reese said he works with Oettinger every day.
He will also have to mentally deal with any adversity that comes his way. On it, the former NHL goalkeeper Marty Turco He had advice for Oettinger.
Turco, the Minnesota North Stars leader in games played (509), wins (262) and closes (40), said Turco.
“It’s hard to have a job to turn off your mind when your mind is our most controlling feature. It’s literally who we are. You have to turn it off to do your job but then turn it on and say, ‘Okay, how do I solve this problem?’ Then turn it off again. If he trusts himself and grows and makes room for growth, which also sometimes takes a step back, he’ll be in a great place. “
Oettinger approached the start of last season with enthusiasm that rivaled his competitive edge. It’s a combination he will look forward to this season as well.
“Obviously, I’ve been through a lot in the last year,” he said. “It’s a really tough situation and you always have to do things to make sure you’re at your best or else another kid like me will be looking forward to taking on my job now. I couldn’t be more excited to be the #1 goalkeeper in the National Hockey League this year. My job is Helping this team get back to the playoffs.”
NHL.com writer Amali Benjamin and freelance reporter Taylor Bird contributed to this story