By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
VICTORIA, British Columbia – There is considerable expectation riding on the wide shoulders of six-foot-five Devan Dubnyk. The only time previous to 2004 that the Edmonton Oilers expended a first-round draft pick on a goaltender was to take some guy named Grant Fuhr out of something then known as the WHL Victoria Cougars.
“It’s easy to get wrapped up in that, so I don’t think about it, and I just block it out and go play,” said the 20-year-old Dubnyk, whose Stockton Thunder meet the Victoria Salmon Kings Friday and Saturday. Stockton is Edmonton’s ECHL farm team.
The Victoria-Stockton games are at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in a different building, but at the same site on Blanshard Street, where Fuhr once patrolled the crease.
The Salmon Kings caught a break Wednesday when Dubnyk was rested and didn’t play in Victoria’s 4-0 victory at SOFMC in which Dubnyk’s great rival and fellow rookie-pro Julien Ellis of the Salmon Kings picked up his first pro shutout. Dubnyk came out of the WHL, and 2004 Vancouver Canucks draft pick Ellis the QMJHL, but the two know each other well from Team Canada junior camps. Both have recently returned to their ECHL teams after stints in the AHL, Ellis with the Manitoba Moose in the minor-pro chain of the parent Canucks and Dubnyk with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins.
“Julien is a good goalie with great technique while I’m obviously bigger than him with a different style because of that,” said Dubnyk, taken 14th overall in the 2004 draft. “I can rely a bit more on size while Julien is technically very efficient.”
Because they don’t have an AHL affiliate this season, the Oilers have placed great stock in Stockton to develop several of their recent draft picks. The Oilers’ player-development coach Kelly Buchberger, who has three Stanley Cup rings from his playing days in Edmonton, was helping run the Thunder practice session yesterday at SOFMC.
“It’s great to have Kelly out,” said Dubnyk. “It’s been a season of learning. The players in pro are bigger, stronger and things happen so much faster than in junior.”
Victoria (21-29-1) has the same number of wins as Stockton (21-15-9) but 14 more losses.
“We have a good record, although we’ve been in a bit of a slump lately,” said Dubnyk, who is 13-6-6 for Stockton with a 2.55 goals-against average and 2-1 with Wilkes-Barre with a 2.94 average.