With the 14th selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Dallas Stars selected Jamie Oleksiak from Northeastern University.
Oleksiak, listed at 6’7″, 254lbs is a hulking defenseman with a deceivingly polished offensive upside. After being drafted, Oleksiak took his talents from the NCAA to the OHL, spending time with both the Saginaw Spirit and the Niagara Ice Dogs, producing 31 points in 57 games. Having already signed Oleksiak to an entry-level contract in October of 2011, the defenseman was a virtual lock to make the Texas Stars (AHL) for the 2012-2013 season.
Through his first 43 games of professional hockey, Oleksiak, affectionately nicknamed “Big Rig”, has excelled. His 23 points lead all defenseman on the Texas Stars and he has cemented himself as one of their top defensemen.
The Dallas Stars already feature two rookies, Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon, on the blueline, but General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk felt it necessary to call up Jamie Oleksiak to the NHL, hoping to create a different look and dynamic to the defensive corps. This move is unsurprising given the lackluster performance from veterans and rookies alike through the first seven games of the season.
The Stars have been out shot in every single game thus far, and it’s cost them. The team has limped through the last four contests with an 0-3-1 record and, rather alarmingly, have either held the lead after the first period, or scored first, in each of those four games. Despite gaining these early advantages, the Stars are simply unable to stop the opponent’s offense, even with consistent and often brilliant play (like this save from Kari Lehtonen) from their goaltenders.
This has been attributed to everything from the shaky play of rookies Benn and Dillon to a regression from Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas. The likely reality is that this team is still a step behind everyone else and they need someone to shake things up. Practice and time will inevitably lead to a more solid defense, but Oleksiak has been playing tremendously and is ready to be given the chance to make an impact.
Oleksiak, along with fellow call up Antoine Roussel, will get that chance to make an impact on Friday night versus the Phoenix Coyotes. Both players will add grit and can potentially add a bit of offense. The Dallas Stars are desperate to start compiling points in this shortened season and are obviously not afraid to experiment with the extensive depth available to them in their system, even if it means scratching veterans.
There’s a lot of hype and expectations surrounding Jamie Oleksiak, who is the organization’s top prospect. Many see him as the future of the Dallas Stars defense, the kind of player that can lead the team far into the playoffs, play tough minutes in all situations, and finally erase the woes that have plagued the Stars blueline since the departure of Sergei Zubov in 2009, a loss that the team has never completely recovered from.
The first step in his journey begins Friday night, and while he might not remain in the NHL as a full time player this season, he’s a virtual lock for the NHL roster next season. To say his debut is highly anticipated would be an understatement.
Here’s a taste of the type of physicality he can bring to the Dallas Stars:
Andrew Monrreal covered the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers and previously covered the Dallas Stars for the FanSided Network.