One player that isn’t talked about enough on the Seattle Kraken is Jamie Oleksiak. With all the focus on the forward group and team goaltending, some may be surprised to know that the former 2011 first-rounder had arguably the best year of his career during the 2021-22 campaign with Seattle. Although he doesn’t end up on the scoreboard often, he will once again play a key role on the Kraken next season.
Oleksiak’s Offensive Game
While Oleksiak isn’t a player that is going to score double digits goals every season, he has become a quiet contributor while on the ice. During the 2021-22 season, he finished with a career-high 95 shots on goal and a 50 percent Corsi share. The biggest surprise was in his primary assists, as he finished tied for second among Kraken defencemen with nine. He tied with Vince Dunn and finished just one behind Adam Larsson for the team lead.
This was just the second season of Oleksiak’s career where he finished with more primary assists than secondary assists. The other instance was in the 2019-20 season, where he recorded four primary assists compared to three secondary assists. Some may argue an assist is an assist, but having more primary assists shows that the player is more engaged in the play offensively. He is the one making the pass leading to the goal rather than passing to another, who then creates the play. It is an underrated statistical category that shows he was actively involved in the offensive zone, even if it was hard to see live.
One thing that the 2021-22 season taught fans is that Oleksiak does have some offence to his game. Yes, one goal and 17 points are not going to blow the door off anyone, but it shows he is capable of getting to 20 or even 25 points in a season. The Kraken struggled to score last season, finishing tied for 28th in goals across the league last season, so if the “Big Rig” can contribute offensively, it will go a long way in the Kraken’s quest to secure a playoff spot.
Oleksiak’s Defensive Game
The main reason Seattle brought in Oleksiak was his defensive game. At 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, he acts like a brick wall, preventing players from getting past him. At first glance, some may be unimpressed with his defensive statistics as he set a career-high with 51 giveaways, but when a deep dive is done, it shows he had one of his best seasons to date in the defensive zone.
To start, Oleksiak finished with a new career high in takeaways with 32. Previously, his career high was 24 back in 2019-20. While the overall number is good, what should be the focus is his career high 1.38 takeaways/60. That ranks him tied for 30th across the league among defencemen who played at least 1,000 minutes last season. Whether it is physically separating players from the puck or strong stick position, he showed last season that takeaways are one of his biggest strengths in the defensive zone.
Oleksiak isn’t a perfect defenceman, as indicated by his giveaways, but he does the job needed on a night-to-night basis. He set a career-high in hits with 182 and had his second-best season when it comes to blocked shots with 86. Overall, he is one of the best defencemen on the Seattle Kraken roster and should be a major factor in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill.
Oleksiak’s Advanced Statistics
There are some who do not see the value in advanced statistics, but they serve a key purpose. Mainly, they help compare how well a player plays to their peers. The main statistic to focus on is wins above replacement. This statistic compares how many more wins a player is worth than a replacement-level player at the same position.
Oleksiak finished with a career-best 1.7 during the 2021-22 season, which ranked first among all Kraken players. The next highest was Jared McCann, with 1.3. He finished tied for 37th among defencemen across the league with MacKenzie Weegar, Noah Dobson, Dmitry Orlov and Marc Staal. In short, the advanced statistics help explain just how valuable a player he is to Seattle. Although not a flashy player, he does the little things needed to help win and is proving to be one of Ron Francis’s best free agent signings from the 2021 offseason.
Expect Another Strong Year From Oleksiak in 2022-23
The 2022-23 season should be another strong one for Oleksiak. Based on line projections, he is going to be partnered with Justin Schultz, which should help decrease his defensive zone turnovers as he won’t need to transition the puck as much. Based on his play last year, do not be surprised if he is one of the best players on the Kraken this upcoming season.