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Jake Oettinger Says He's Just Scratching the Surface

The Dallas Stars goalie believes he can be even better and based on his sophomore campaign, that should make fans very excited.
Jake Oettinger

Jake Oettinger

Heading into the 2021-22 season, the goaltending position was up in the air for Dallas. Was Ben Bishop going to be healthy enough to return? If not, could Braden Holtby be the short-term fix? In the end, it was second-year netminder Jake Oettinger who carried the mail, racking up 30 wins in the regular season and putting on a spectacular performance in the first round of the playoffs. The Stars fell to Calgary in seven, but 'Otter' came away with a .954 save percentage, serving notice that he was the answer in Dallas.

This week, Oettinger signed a new three-year contract worth $12 million and to hear the 23-year-old tell it, he would have gone longer on term had it made sense from a salary cap/financial perspective.

"I made it clear to my representatives that I wanted to be in Dallas for a long time and if I could have signed for eight years, I would have," Oettinger said. "I'm super-happy with how the process went. It's definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders and now I'm just excited to get back to work."

Oettinger has spent the summer prepping for his first true season as an NHL No. 1, honing both his mind and body. The Stars are an intriguing team because they have the veterans that have gone through the wars (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and an apparently ageless Joe Pavelski), plus a young core led by the likes of Oettinger, Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz and left winger Jason Robertson, who is coming off a breakout season that saw him post 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games.

Robertson and Oettinger came up together, playing their first pro seasons together with the AHL's Texas Stars in 2019-20. Now they're already crucial pieces in Dallas, with room to still grow along with the others.

"It's a great group of young guys and it should be super-exciting for the fans," Oettinger said. "We have such a good young core that has gotten better every year and all the young guys are looking to take another step forward together. Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup together, that's the plan."

The Stars have come close in recent years, though now they'll be doing it with a new coach in Pete DeBoer. Oettinger said he's heard great things about DeBoer and new assistants Steve Spott and Alain Nasreddine. But for him personally, perhaps the most important coach is a holdover from the previous regime: Goaltending guru Jeff Reese, who is heading into his seventh campaign with the Stars.

"Even when I was drafted he took a special interest in me," Oettinger said. "It really feels like he believes in me and he's a coach that kinda feels like family now. I feel like he has my best interests at heart and wants me to do well as both a goalie and a person in life. He does such a good job of knowing when to push me and when I just need someone to talk to, even if it's not about hockey. He's one of the best coaches I've ever had and he definitely pushes me every day to get better."

Having Oettinger on point will be key for the Stars as they attempt to go deeper in the post-season this upcoming season. It won't be easy, playing in an ultra-competitive Central Division that features the defending Cup champions from Colorado, not to mention recent champs from St. Louis and tough outfits from Nashville and Minnesota. But the mission is clear.

"The only thing I really think about is making the playoffs," Oettinger said. "Once you do that, you give yourself a chance to win the Cup."

The youngster believes that hockey is about making the most of your opportunities and Oettinger has been pleased with how he has done that so far. But he also thinks that he has just scratched the surface and that should be great news for Stars fans - and not so great for shooters in the Central Division.

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