With the Seattle Kraken‘s first 10 games in the NHL behind them, the team has struggled mightily in the opening games of their inaugural campaign. Adding in last night’s loss to the division-leading Edmonton Oilers, the Kraken enter the second month of the NHL season with a struggling 3-6-1 record. However, the team has looked better heading into the end of October, winning back-to-back games last week against the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild. With players like Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev receiving much of the attention, Jamie Oleksiak has flown under the radar as a strong workhorse for the Kraken early into the season.
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound defender from Toronto has been a defensive rock for the Kraken in the team’s opening games. Oleksiak has brought a physical brand of hockey to the Kraken’s back end that makes him difficult for other teams to play against, and he seems to be finding his scoring game with his first points of the season all coming during the last week of play for the Kraken. Oleksiak brings not only a massive physical frame to Seattle’s first roster but experience in high-pressure situations as well.
Oleksiak Brings the Body With His Physical Play
When Oleksiak steps on the ice, he brings with him a physical frame that is one of the most imposing in the NHL. He is one of the tallest players currently playing in the NHL, and his weight of 255 pounds makes him the heaviest. Simply put, he has a massive build, and as he has shown often throughout the start of the season, he is not afraid to throw the body around. Oleksiak’s 31 hits currently sits tied for the most on the Kraken’s roster with the team’s leading goal scorer Brandon Tanev.
Not only has Oleksiak thrown his body around with his opponents, but he has also shown no fear with throwing himself in front of the puck. His seven blocked shots are good enough for fifth on the Kraken’s roster behind three of his fellow defensemen and right winger Jordan Eberle. His physical presence stands among the toughest in the NHL with his hits count finishing top two on the Dallas Stars over the past two seasons.
Not to mention, Oleksiak seems to be finding his scoring touch through the Kraken’s last week of games. He totaled one assist in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Oilers and tallied two helpers in the team’s 5-1 win over the Canadiens last Tuesday. While his role in the past has typically been more that of an enforcer than a scoring threat, three points in four games is nothing to scoff at for the physical defender.
Oleksiak Brings Stability to the Kraken’s Special Teams
One area where the Kraken have particularly come to rely on Oleksiak’s strengths is on the penalty kill. Despite the team’s early-season struggles, the Kraken’s 87 percent shorthanded success rate currently puts them in the top 10 penalty kills in the NHL. Oleksiak has been a core part of the team’s penalty kill, with his 19:05 of shorthanded ice time sitting at fourth among Kraken skaters and third among defensemen. His extended time on the penalty kill has served well for the team’s top 10 penalty kill, especially through their last few games.
Oleksiak has been part of a penalty-killing core for Seattle that has given up few goals to its opposition on the man advantage. In the Kraken’s past five games, they’ve only given up two goals out of a total of 15 power-play opportunities for their opponents, even keeping the red-hot Oilers’ power play that currently tops the NHL to one goal in three chances with the extra man. Oleksiak currently stands as the only member of the Kraken’s top-five penalty killers to not allow a single goal when down a man.
Oleksiak Part of a Dying Breed of NHL Enforcers
Fighting in the NHL has seen a drastic decrease in frequency since some of the NHL’s rowdier days. With the league constantly growing younger, faster, and smaller, the big imposing fighters of the league’s past are becoming less prominent in the modern NHL. Oleksiak is part of a rare breed in the NHL of imposing physical players who will gladly throw his fists around to give the team a jolt. He has already gotten into one fight this season, dropping the gloves with the Flyers’ Nick Seeler in the Kraken’s Oct. 18 contest in Philadelphia.
Oleksiak’s 10-minute misconduct was one of three doled out during the scrum surrounding his bout with the Flyers defenseman, along with the standard five-minute major penalty. Outside of his lone fight against Seeler, though, Oleksiak has generally stayed out of the penalty box for the Kraken. He has only taken a single penalty throughout the team’s other nine games of the season, a tripping infraction during the team’s first game of the season.
As the Kraken enter into their second month of NHL play, Oleksiak has solidified his place on the newest team in the NHL. His physical presence and recent offensive production should help to bolster a team looking to climb out of its rough start to the season.
Michael Ingram is a long-time hockey fan and avid writer covering the Seattle Kraken. Born and raised in the rural North Country of New York, he has been writing a personal blog on everything from anime and games to hockey for five-plus years and has even dabbled in a bit of fiction.