Over the next month I will be taking a look at current prospects in the system. The hope is to inform you about the players and give some insight into what fans should expect from them this season and where they should play during the 2012-2013 season. Most of the articles will cover the big name kids, but also a couple will be done on members of the organization that I believe people should keep an eye on. We will begin with Oleksiak today, and move forward to Scott Glennie on Monday.
Jamie Oleksiak – Defense
By this point just about every fan that cheers for the Dallas Stars knows who Jamie Oleksiak is. And if you went to development camp or were able to see him at an event since he was drafted, you can’t miss the big prospect. Not only is he the Stars’ biggest prospect as far as their defensemen working their way up, but also simply a behemoth of a kid in size. The Stars selected Jamie with the 14th overall pick last summer, and in doing so immediately made the 6’7″ blueliner their best prospect among their defensive ranks.
Last summer Oleksiak was immediately compared to other massive blueliners in Zdeno Chara and Buffalo’s recent first rounder Tyler Myers. He of course has the big frame and still is growing into it (scary that he might get even bigger in the next few years), but the Toronto native also brings a lot to the table that many large players can’t. He exhibits great skating abilities to go with the expected strength, size, and positioning. And while his offensive skills are still developing, he does have a big shot and his hands will only get better. So when the first round started last summer, Oleksiak was one of the wildcards of the draft. The Stars were one of many teams eyeing him and when he was available at 14th it made sense for them to draft him.
After being drafted Oleksiak opted to leave Northeastern University to jump to the OHL and play at the major juniors level. He started the 2011-2012 season with the Saginaw Spirit, posting six goals and five assists in 31 games on a team struggling in the middle of the standings. But Jamie was thrown for a loop and moved to Niagara IceDogs midseason and took off right away with his new teammates. Jumping to a contending team worked in his favor, and Oleskiak began to contribute more offensively with a better team. He finished out the season by putting up 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in 28 games with Niagara. His offensive number dropped off in the postseason with only four assists in 20 games, but he was part of a team that went all the way to the J. Ross Robertson Cup before losing out to the London Knights.
So where does Jamie go now? Well that is an interesting question. While his size says that he could likely jump to the NHL this season, at least physically, he is still only 19 and has one more season of eligibility in the OHL. He definitely could make the jump to the professional level, there is something to be gained by letting him play one more year at a level where he can be a leader and dominate force. He possesses the size, strength, and awareness of an elite prospect, but getting one more season to grow and work on his offense could make his transition to Dallas next summer smoother. Plus with Brenden Dillion already set to fight for the sixth spot on the defense this fall, there might not be room for him at NHL without a move made. So while he should get a good look (if a season starts on time) and could have a great preseason, his development could benefit the most by getting one more season to grow and dominate with players his age.