Edmonton's Top 25 Under 25 - #17 Devan Dubnyk

In spite of what Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us, trusting your feelings is generally a bad thing. There's a phenomenon pilots know that's referred to as a "graveyard spin": basically, it's when the plane you're flying starts spinning and over time your body adjusts so when you correct the spin, you feel like you're spinning in the other direction. If you trust what your instinct tells you instead of looking at your instruments, you will crash. If you behave rationally rather than emotionally, using data rather than gut feeling, you'll probably be fine.

There's a good cautionary lesson there for us all. Indeed, the most significant change in sports for the last thirty years has been the shift away from watching the game and towards watching the numbers as the most respected method of talent evaluation. Men and women who have grown sick of their teams smashing their aircraft into the dirt and want them to look at their instruments once in a while, which has provided us with more useful and intelligent data than we have ever had before.

The NHL data on Devan Dubnyk is pretty miserable. We see he has a 3.57 goals against average, an .889 save percentage, no shutouts - numbers that might have been acceptable in 1984, but not today. His save percentage came in twelve points behind Jeff Deslauriers, who has earned a reputation as one of the worst goaltenders in the entire universe. Of all goaltenders in the NHL last season to play more than fifteen games Devan Dubnyk's save percentage was fourth-worst, behind three goalies I wouldn't trust to stop traffic.

So now I'm flying blind, because I'm going to tell you why Devan Dubnyk is a legitimate NHL prospect anyway.


Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
17 Devan Dubnyk
5/4/86
14 2004
8 10 26 17 21

One does not have to defy all the numbers to mount a defense of Devan Dubnyk. Despite not playing with a .500 team since the 2005-06 Stockton Thunder, Dubnyk's minor league numbers have always been solid with the exception of one year in Springfield and he's still only 23 years old. Last year, Dubnyk played 33 games in Springfield and had a .915 save percentage, with Jean-Philippe Levasseur coming second on the team with .896. We cannot forget how terrible those teams were, and for Devan to be a decent part of them in those contexts counts heavily in his favour.

His problem last season in the NHL was more lack of consistency than lack of skill. In four of his nineteen games he allowed five goals or more, which is bad but the small sample size leaves us to question whether it's because Dubnyk stinks or whether the combination of an awful team and a young goaltender caused problems. Towards the end of the year, Dubnyk appeared to round into form: five of his last seven games had save percentages over .935, with a combined save percentage of .921. Again, a short sample size, but it's a convincing rally after a start to his career that is best condemned to the obscurity of nightmares.

A .921 save percentage is obviously higher than any of us can expect from Dubnyk. It's higher than any of his AHL or junior seasons, for example. But is it too much to say that a young man, thrust into an NHL role he wasn't ready for by the unanticipated injury to an aging injury-prone goaltender, might play a few stinkers before he starts to show off his true talent? This is where I have to depart from numerical orthodoxy, for I must make an argument that it seems impossible for statistics to oppose or support. I think his real level of play is closer to his later numbers than his earlier pnes. He just looks like he should be a goaltender. There are no massive areas of weakness, like Deslauriers' rebound control and ability to get lost in his own crease, which just scream "this guy is going to be flirting with .900 his entire career". Maybe his glove could be a bit quicker, or his puckhandling a little more accurate, but no goaltender has ever been perfect except Curtis Joseph.

So that's why I put Dubnyk in the top ten. We remember the awful, but I think the good is more representative of how Dubnyk can play. Certainly I'd take him over Deslauriers (and if the contract situation is any indication, so would the Oilers). I'm more optimistic for Dubnyk's future than I am any of our non-blue chip prospects. This may make me crazy, but crazy optimistic is a nice change of pace.

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