This is a more recent retiree, but is one that many remember. While it may not be for his unusual path to the NHL, it could be more for the guy who really started the all-white trend that we see today when it comes to goalie pads....or not. Either way, this Latvian went undrafted when he came to North America, but plied his trade and then got into the NHL that way. This week, we'll peer into the career of Peter Skudra.
When Skudra started his career in Latvia in 1990-91, he mostly stayed in the lower leagues. He would play in the Russia-3 league with Energo Riga for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 season before moving up and playing with Pardaugava Riga in the 1992-93 season. That season, Skudra would play 27 games for Pardaugava and collect a 2.96 GAA. Skudra was good enough to play for Latvia in the C-Division of the World Championships for Latvia. He only played in two games, but did not allow a goal, registering a win for his country in the tourney. Skudra would return to Pardaugava for the 1993-94 season but would only 14 games and registering a 3.22 GAA for the season. While he accompanied Latvia in the B-Division of the World Championship, he did not play.
Trying to take his game to the next level, Skudra moved to North America without being drafted, which could be considered odd back in those days. The 1994-95 season saw Skudra start with the Central League's Memphis Riverkings, playing two games and recording one loss, before he moved to the ECHL with the Greensboro Monarchs; where he fared much better. In 33 games with the Monarchs, Skudra had a 13-9-5 record and went 2-2 in six playoff games that season as well. For the 1995-96 season, Skudra started with the Erie Panthers and played 12 games going 3-8-1 before moving to the Johnstown Chiefs and playing in 30 games with a 12-11-4 record. While it wasn't the success that Skudra was hoping for, he kept at it with the Chiefs to start out the 1996-97 season going 2-1-1 in his four games before moving up to the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. In the 32 games with the Bulldogs, Skudra didn't play spectacular, which seemed to be the case for all the 'Dogs goalies that year. So, Skudra's 8-16-2 record made him the second winningest goalie on that team for the season.
While it wasn't the best, it did get the attention of some NHL teams, which got Skudra his first contract in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins before the start of the 1997-98 season. Though, he started off that season with the Houston Aeros of the IHL, playing in nine games with a 5-3-1 record before being called up to Pittsburgh. Skudra was the third wheel behind Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget, but having dealt with injuries during the season. Skudra didn't waste his chance, though, going 6-4-3 with a 1.98 GAA in 17 games with the Penguins, but was a casualty of numbers and was sent down to the IHL with the Kansas City Blades. Skudra played as well in KC as he did in Pittsburgh, going 10-3-0 in his 13 games, but going 4-4 in his eight playoff appearances. The 1998-99 season saw Skudra as the back-up for Tom Barrasso and played in 37 games, going 15-11-5 with a 2.79 GAA, though he was getting heat from J-S Aubin, who came in late in the season. The 1999-2000 season brought a lot of goalie turmoil, as Skudra was behind not only Tom Barrasso, but also now Aubin. Yet, when Barrasso was shipped to Ottawa, they brought in Ron Tugnutt; who outranked Skudra. Skudra only had 20 games with the Pens that season recording a 5-7-3 record for the year.
Before the start of the 2000-01 season, the Buffalo Sabres plucked Skudra off of waivers. Skudra would play one game with the Sabres, only for 27 second, before being sent down to the AHL's Rochester Americans, where he would play two games winning both games before being put on waivers again and got picked up by the Boston Bruins. It was a logjam in Boston, but Skudra still got 26 games, but a disappointing 6-12-1 record, while playing three games in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, winning all three.
The 2001-02 season saw Skudra without a NHL contract, so he would go to the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack to play for three games (2-1-0) before getting a contract with the Vancouver Canucks to back-up Dan Cloutier. Skudra's first year in Vancouver saw him play 23 games, going 10-8-2 with a 2.42 GAA and .907 save percentage. He was able to get two games played in the playoffs, losing one and having a no-decision in the other. Skudra would be back for the 2002-03 season, against playing 23 games with the Canucks and went 9-5-6 with a higher 2.72 GAA and lower .897 save percentage. Skudra would play one game with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, winning it for the Moose.
After that season, the Canucks passed on Skudra for Alex Auld as their back-up. That would push Skudra to move back over to the Russian league, starting in the 2003-04 season. He would split that season between Ak Bars Kazan and Voskresensk Khimik, where Skudra would play 43 games total, recording six shutouts with a 1.97 GAA. Skudra would be back with Khimik in the 2004-05 season, play 43 games with three shutouts and a 2.49 GAA. Skudra would play for CSKA Moscow for the 2005-06 season, but see less time and only 24 games. He would go on to record three shutouts and a 2.24 GAA. The 2006-07 second had Skudra split between CSKA Moscow and Novokuznetsk Metallurg, playing 32 games total; but no stats were around for those years.
Before the start of the 2007-08 season, with no contract in sight from anywhere; Skudra decided to retire from playing and became the goalie coach of Metallurg, which is his last known whereabouts.
While he didn't take the normal route, Skudra kept his head up and kept plugging away at playing wherever he could in order to reach the NHL. While it took him a while and he only saw back-up minutes, often being pushed out of the equation when all is said and done-- he got to where he wanted to be. Plus, his white pads were that of legends and made him stand out from the crowd-- and may have been a trendsetter for what we see today.