Goaltending has to be one of the most fickle positions in all of professional sports. It is insanely hard to get a good grip on whether a goaltender can translate a good junior career into a successful professional career. So many times we have seen hyped up prospects get drafted into the NHL only to see them flutter out, either spectacularly or without so much as a game or two. Some recent examples that come to mind are Zach Fucale and Eric Comrie.
This uncertainty pertains to Edmonton’s very own Olivier Rodrigue. The second round draft choice from 2018 has had a fairly decent junior career and is primed to turn pro in the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at where our panel of writers had him ranked on this year’s Top 25 Under 25:
That puts him up at #18 on the final list, a seven spot jump from #25 in last year’s list. It also makes him Edmonton’s top rated North American goaltending prospect. How did he manage to get into that position? Let’s take a look at the career of Olivier Rodrigue in the past few seasons to find out...
Who Is Olivier Rodrigue?:
As I mentioned, Rodrigue was a second round draft selection by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2018 NHL Draft. At the time he was the son of Edmonton’s goaltending coach, Sylvain Rodrigue, which may or may not have had an influence on the club drafting him. Despite the in-house connection, Rodrigue was NHL Central Scouting’s #1 goaltender for the draft year, so the organization obviously had other influences affecting the selection.
At the time, Rodrigue was playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. He notched 31 wins in 52 games and posted a .903sv% in his draft year. His D+1 year saw those number stay pretty much the same on a stacked Voltigeurs team, a slight drop to a .902sv% but an overall similar year that saw him post a 35-7-1 record. Not too shabby, but there is some concern to be had in such a low save percentage.
In June 2019, Rodrigue was traded to the Moncton Wildcats, a team that, while good, wasn’t nearly on the level that Voltigeurs.
The 2019/20 season was a very impressive showing for Rodrigue. His first season in Moncton saw him post career highs in GAA (2.32), save percentage (0.918). The season was cut short due to COVID-19 but the numbers suggested he was well on his way to achieving a career high in wins as he had 31 in 39 games. It was the first real notable improvement in his development and one that should be encouraging to the Oilers.
He has spent the first half of the 2020/21 season overseas in Austria playing for Graz EC. He has played seven games and has shown well, with a .920sv%. I was unable to determine his record through those seven games.
Where Does He Go From Here?:
Olivier Rodrigue is an intriguing prospect for the Edmonton Oilers. He hasn’t shown any regression since being drafted so that is a positive. His performance over the best two seasons might indicate that he might have NHL pedigree but it remains to be seen how he plays at the professional level.
I expect the Ken Holland to take the slow and steady approach and have him start the year in the ECHL (when things get back to normal of course). If he succeeds in Wichita he will make the move to the AHL and then, maybe, he gets a chance as a backup goalie in the next 4-5 seasons.
He definitely won’t be among that young crop of goalies that break into the league, like Carter Hart and Andrei Vasilevskiy, but if he can get NHL games at the age 24 or 25 I would see that as a win for both the player and the team.
Goalies take time to develop and I think Rodrigue has shown some promise to eventually play NHL minutes. Yet, as I detailed earlier, the progression of an goaltender varies from year to year and it’s equally as possible that he will be out of the organization by age 24.
Rodrigue holds the future of his career in his hands.