In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers will be doing a deep dive on each player. This installment of the series focuses on defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who the Kraken selected from the Dallas Stars.
2020-21 Team: Dallas Stars
2020-21 Season: Oleksiak was a vital part of the Stars backend this past season. In 56 games, he averaged a career-high 20:29 average time on ice (ATOI), and killed penalties for just under 85 minutes. His double-digit point production remained consistent to that of the past four seasons. As could be indicated by his lack of scoring, his physical and defensive play is his proficiency. The 6-foot-7 defender led the Stars with 148 hits and was second in blocks, tallying a career-high 88. Oleksiak owned a 49.7 Corsi for percentage, while 53.9% of his shifts started in the defensive zone.
Type of Acquisition: Oleksiak was selected by the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft.
Oleksiak’s Pre-Kraken Career
Oleksiak knew several homes between 2008 and 2012. His junior hockey career started at 15 years old in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Chicago Steel. He played 58 games over two seasons with the Steel, tallying 14 assists, before being traded to the Sioux Falls Stampede to play 27 games, between the regular season and playoffs.
At 17 years old, he stepped into the world of college hockey, defending the Northeastern University blue line for the 2010-11 season. He scored four goals and 13 points, and added 57 penalty minutes in his only collegiate season. Following the season, the Stars drafted him 14th overall.
Prior to turning pro, Oleksiak’s final season was spent in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He started the season with the Saginaw Spirit and scored six goals and 11 points in 31 games, before being traded to the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Ice Dogs were making a run to the J. Ross Robertson Cup, and he joined the race with ease.
His offensive production skyrocketed to six goals and 21 points in 28 games. He added four assists in 20 playoff games, but ultimately fell short of the title. The London Knights beat the Ice Dogs in five games.
Through the 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons, Oleksiak split time between the Dallas Stars and American Hockey League’s (AHL) Texas Stars. Over that span, he put up relatively decent offensive numbers; 15 goals and 74 points in 171 games. Those are pretty strong offensive numbers considering his play style. During the 2013-14 season, he earned his ring and hoisted the Calder Cup as AHL champion.
Since the 2016-17 season, Oleksiak has been a steady defender on NHL ice. He spent 83 of his 369 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was known for his time in Dallas. For the Stars, he was a key component to their defense.
Oleksiak’s Kraken Expectations
Oleksiak should find himself battling with teammate Brandon Tanev to see who will throw the body more this season. Don’t be surprised to see him receiving top-four ice time and a home on the penalty kill. Given his defensive ability and willingness to give up the body to block a shot, fans are going to appreciate what he brings.
Offensively, don’t ask for too much. If he could find five goals and 15 points, that would be a solid year, considering his role. Despite his physicality, he has decent discipline, and will stick up for his teammates if the situation arises. He has 22 fights in his NHL career, eight during that 83 game stretch with the Penguins. It is likely that he will be amongst the Kraken leadership group, and may find a letter on his chest to start the season.
Was Selecting Oleksiak a Hit or a Miss?
Kraken general manager Ron Francis recorded a strong hit by selecting Oleksiak. He signed a five-year, $23 million contract, which carries a $4.6 million average annual value (AAV). The cap hit more than doubles his previous deal’s. He’s going to be around for the long haul, as he has three years with a no-trade clause, followed by two with a modified no-trade clause. The point being, Francis knew what he wanted, and made sure to lock it up long-term.
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Oleksiak’s defensive style will allow for more offensive defenders like Vince Dunn to exploit their offensive upside and take risks while Oleksiak holds down the fort. He is a go-to guy for physicality and penalty killing, and signed long-term. Francis hit this selection out of the park.