Are we being too impatient or is Jamie Oleksiak destined to fall short of his potential? The Stars drafted the hulking 6’7 250 defenseman in the 1st round (14th overall) in 2011. Still just 22 years old, the Toronto native, has yet to seize the opportunity to solidify a top 6 spot on the Stars defense.
The physical tools are undeniable. Oleksiak’s shot and skating ability are above average and his reach allows for a tremendous advantage if used properly. However, his physical play tends to waver between inconsistent and invisible. Personally, I’m not a big believer in professional aged players making huge strides in developing the physical side of their game. You either have it or you don’t. See Derian Hatcher and Scott Stevens.
Stars Oleksiak’s 2014-15 Review
The 2014-15 season marked his 3rd consecutive season of shuttling back and forth between Dallas and Cedar Park. From a progression standpoint, it also provided the largest sample size of NHL experience in his 3 seasons.
Games 36, 1g, 7a, 0 plus/minus rating and 8 pims. (Dallas Stars)
Games 35, 4g, 12a, +26 plus/minus and 12 pims. (Texas Stars)
At first glance these are rather pedestrian numbers for a former 14th overall NHL Draft pick. To me the most concerning stat above is the combined 20 pims. That is a Lady Bing-like pace for a player nicknamed “The Big Rig.”
Oleksiak’s advanced stats were also poor. Of the 12 defensemen who played for the Dallas Stars last season only Trevor Daley had a worse on-ice scoring chances differential (Oleksiak was minus 31 while Daley was minus 52}. Stats are per war-on-ice.com:
On the positive side his +26 with Texas easily led the team, in fact no other Texas Stars defenseman was able to reach +10. Oleksiak supporters could argue the plus/minus results are more valuable than his lack of physicality.
Going through some end of regular season stats for #TxStars. Jamie Oleksiak was plus-26 this year in 35 AHL games.
— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) April 23, 2015
Further clouding Oleksiak’s AHL performance assessment was a disappointing first round playoff exit. The Stars were swept 3-0 by the Rockford Ice Hogs and Oleksiak (0g, 0a) had a -5 plus/minus which was tied for worst on the team. As Stephen Meserve reported for 100degreehockey, Oleksiak closed the season with a feeble effort defending Rockford’s Stephen Johns on the series clinching overtime goal in game 3.
2011 NHL Draft
Coming into the 2011 NHL Draft many had Oleksiak pegged as a future top pair defenseman. The Boston Bruins had just won the Cup and their captain, 6’9 255 defenseman Zdeno Chara, was a big reason for their success. Oleksiak’s coach at Northeastern Greg Cronin, coached a young Zdeno Chara with NYI. Naturally this led to Oleksiak and Chara comparisons.
“I saw Chara play at that age and Oleksiak is way more developed and does possess better coordination than Chara had,” Craig Button told NHL.com. “A 6-foot-7 defenseman with the skill of Oleksiak doesn’t come very often. There’s a big development window in front of him. I could see three or four years down the road, NHL teams that passed on him might be saying ‘We should have taken him.'”
An Updated Assessment
Now 5 years later, THW caught up with Craig Button and asked if Oleksiak’s potential developmental ceiling has changed? Does he still have another level of development to reach or will he plateau at say a Hal Gill level instead?
Where Will Oleksiak Play in 2015-16?
In no particular order..