Over the course of the last week, I began the Oilers off-season targets series here at the Rig by looking through a couple of goaltending options for the club. Why? Because in his season ending press conference, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli alluded to adding a player to the position even though Al Montoya is signed through next season.
The Oilers are looking for a netminder who can give Cam Talbot some rest, playing 20-25 games during the 2018-19 season. They are also looking for a guy that can push Talbot in his contract year with the club. Enter the KHL, where the Oilers are rumored to be shopping.
Oilers insider Bob Stauffer has been hinting at the club adding a KHL goaltender to compete for the backup job in camp this coming September. There are plenty of options in Europe’s top league, and the Oil appear to have their sights set on one.
According to Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers are the current front-runner to sign 29-year-old KHL veteran Mikko Koskinen when his contract expires on April 30th, just eight days from now.
Koskinen And The Oil:
Friedman’s report last night was a bit of a surprise, mainly because rumors over the last week had Koskinen signing a deal with the New York Islanders. The Isles drafted Koskinen 31st overall in the second-round of the 2009 NHL entry draft. He’s played in four games at the NHL level, all in 2010-11, going 2-1-0 with a .873 SV%.
Koskinen did play three AHL games in 2011-12, going 0-2-0 with a .909 SV%. After those three games, Koskinen returned to Finland, playing parts of three seasons in the SM-Liiga before jumping to the KHL in 2013.
Stauffer, as mentioned above, has been alluding to the Oilers looking to the KHL for quite sometime. He chimed in after Friedman’s report during the Bruins/Leafs playoff game on Hockey Night in Canada.
Further to @FriedgeHNIC on Mikko Koskinen.— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) April 22, 2018
My understanding is KHL UFA players contracts expire April 30th.
Peter Chiarelli said Goaltending was "close or near the top of things to look at," when I asked him about getting another goalie to ease Cam Talbot's workload- April 11
A Closer Look:
Koskinen had a stellar season with St. Petersburg SKA this past season in the KHL, no debate about that. In 31 games, he went 24-4-1 with a .931 SV% and a 1.69 GAA. It was the fourth season of his KHL career that he finished with a save percentage of over .920.
In 2013-14 with Novosibirsk Sbir, Koskinen finished with a .939 SV% in 41 games. He followed that up with a .921 SV% in 29 games in 2014-15 with Sbir. In his first season with St. Petersburg SKA, Koskinen had another strong season, with a .927 SV% in 21 games.
A .915 SV% (2015-16, 41 games) and a .916 mark (2016-17, 23 games) would represent his worst two KHL seasons prior to another strong campaign this past year.
Compliments Dobber Prospects, here’s a scouting report on Koskinen from back in May of 2016.
May 2016 – Mikko Koskinen put himself back in the minds of North American hockey fans at the 2016 World Championships in Moscow. The big Finn was named the tournament’s best goaltender, going 7-1 with a .947 save percentage and leading Finland to the silver medal in the process. Before this month, Koskinen was probably best remembered for his brief stint in the AHL for Bridgeport. In his only full season there, he posted a .892 save percentage. He was loaned to KalPa of the SM-liiga in November of 2011. However, since 2013, Koskinen has been one of the KHL’s top goaltenders. In fact, he was named the KHL’s best goaltender in 2014-15, in the same season he led SKA St. Petersburg to the league title. Obviously, the first thing that you notice about Koskinen is his size. He takes up a ton of net and he is difficult to beat when he has time to square up to the shooter. Predictably, he struggles a bit with his mobility and regularly ends up scrambling. However, he is extremely flexible for a man his size. That combined with his long limbs helps Koskinen make up for whatever deficiencies exist in his lateral movement. Brent Craswell
Mikko Koskinen aligns quite nicely with the Oilers needs at backup. He’s got a strong resume in Europe and looks ready to make the jump to North America for the second time. He looks much more prepared this time, and is in a much better spot to have success than in 2009, when he first came over.
Is he the best option? No, there are veteran NHL’ers that I think would be a better bet for 20-25 games and to push Talbot. That said, Koskinen’s success at the KHL-level indicates he could be a fine option for the club moving forward.
He should come cheap, and will be highly motivated to make his mark in the NHL next fall. If the Oilers land him, he’d be a nice fit for them behind Talbot.
There is risk, however. Koskinen completely flopped in his first North American stint, and played on a stacked KHL team the last few years, likely inflating his numbers. It’s possible that Koskinen flops in his second stint in North America, and that the Oilers could be shopping for a goalie again come December.
That said, while there is risk, I like the resume of this player and think he very well could make an impact right away in the league and be a good fit for a team like Edmonton.