The past lockout was an opportunity to do something I don't do enough in my own taste. Watch some AHL games. This post and the next ones will be about sharing my thoughts on some players that stood out to me. Some that might be good pieces for Ottawa to get and some that are my dark horses NHL future superstars.
I don't watch much OHL hockey but I have a friend that religiously follow CHL & european teams while I'm usually more focused on the AHL and the QMJHL. We often chat about prospects and it's been three years in a row now that before the draft, we create our own list of players that should go in the first two rounds. Here's how I projected the defensemen to go in the 2011 first round:
- Hamilton (7th)
- Beaulieu (10th)
- Larsson (11th)
- R. Murphy (14th)
- Brodin (16th)
- Morrow (21th)
- Oleksiak (25th)
- Ouellet (26th)
- Siemens (30th)
Obviously, it was a mess.
I had never watched Jamie Oleksiak play at the time but my friend had a serious man-crush on him so I included him high on my list to prevent him from killing me. The scouting reports on him were all very similiar: A Chara-like frame, that could use his gargantuan physical attributes more, benefit from a better skating and needed improvement in his decision making on the offensive side of the ice. In other words, he was a huge stay-at-home defenseman.
The first time I watched Oleksiak play was during the recent lockout. A Binghamton game had just ended and I wanted to see more hockey so I tuned to a Texas Stars game. In fact, it's Oklahoma City and hockey prodigy Justin Schultz that I wanted to see but I quickly found myself cheering for the Stars. Jamie Oleksiak was all over the place during that game. He was fast, incredibly effective, aware and strong. From there, I never stopped watching him. Trust me, I was never a fan of either the Texas or the Dallas Stars but this guy could make me watch all of their 82/76 regular season games.
At 20 years old, 6 foot 7 and 247 pounds, Oleksiak is a huge and exciting player to watch. He often carries the Texas offense and is always THE force out there. I'm surprised that there's not more talk about him when comes the time to determine who the best prospects are. In my mind, he certainly is a budding superstar. There just aren't much flaws in his game. He's rock solid in his zone and is very smart on offense. His best asset could be his ripping shot but he doesn't use it as much as most would like to see yet. It could also be his unreal puck skills or his punishing defensive style but I'm going to give it to his skating ability and his endurance. For his size, he moves very very fast and well. The AHL does not show the ice time but I wouldn't be surprized at all to know that he plays 27-33 minutes per game. He seems to be out there all night long and that's pretty telling of what he's made of and how the coaches like him because he's still a rookie in the AHL. He currently has 4 goals, 27 points (12th in the league) and is a whooping +19 in 47 games for the Texas Stars. That's impressive considering he only started racking up points consistently at around the 15 games mark. He also played his first 6 national hockey league games from the end of january to mid febuary and I couldn't help but watch all 6 of them. He looked better and better as time went on and was dominant in two of his last three games. Against Edmonton and Calgary, respectively. He had a single assist and was minus 1 during the 6 games sting but don't get fooled by those numbers. He was very good on defense, was creating opportunities after opportunies and if there was a tertiary assist, he would have had 3 points by my own counts.
He was sent back down to play big minutes because of the reinsertion of Alex Goligoski in the lineup and the decision to keep Jordie Benn in the lineup. He did not only play big minutes since his return to the AHL. He dominated every single one of them. Throught the four games he's been back, his team is a perfect 4-0-0. He managed to score a goal, add 4 assists and be a +7 player along the way. That guy rule the game a way I'm only familiar with because there
is was a guy in Ottawa doing the same thing in a different way and at a different level. If he reaches his NHL potential, Oleksiak will be a franchise cornerstone defenseman.
How could he land in Ottawa?
Dallas is pretty much set in goal (Lehtonen, Bachman, Campbell, Beskorowany, Nilstorp) and on defense for the future. However, after top foward prospect Radek Faksa, they don't have much potential top line fowards. Cody Eakin, Devin Shore, Alex Guptill and Reilly Smith are all good but no where near excellent or elite. Combined with thet fact that the pair of 40 years old (Jagr, Whitney) likely to leave/retire after this season, it's not a secret that Dallas will be in need of top 6 fowards soon. That's where Ottawa enters in scene. We are well known for our depht at foward around the league (hell, ''we are the envy'').
On the other end, we are on verge of losing veteran Sergei Gonchar. In addition to that, Phillips won't be any faster moving foward and Benoit sadly don't have much of a future in Ottawa. Those are three of the six guys playing regular roles on the NHL statistically best defense as of now.
A trade between the two clubs would fulfill organizational needs and I strongly believe that we are one of the teams that has pieces that might interest Dallas and make a trade go through. Plus, Oleksiak's value is likely not as high as some other top defense prospects like Gormley, Hamilton, Larsson or Murray
Imagine our defense corp moving foward including the likes of: Karlsson, Cowen, Oleksiak, Wiercioch, Ceci, Methot and Gryba. Yikes! Huge, truculent, skilled and fast? Yes please.
Assuming you want to trade for him at all, who would you be willing to give up to get Oleksiak?
Personally, I'd give up Michalek without regrets.