2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 13 Jamieson Oleksiak

The tallest and biggest prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is also ahead of most players his age’s development. The 6-foot-7, 244-pound gargantuan defenseman is manning the blueline for Northeastern University at age 18.

Playing for the Chicago Steel and Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States League, Jamie Oleksiak took a while to develop his game. Far from an offensive defenseman, Oleksiak scored just two goals and 18 points in three seasons in the USHL. His total plus/minus rating was a minus-3.

This year, however, he has scored four goals and 13 points in 38 games for the NCAA’s Northeastern University, in addition to an even plus/minus rating.

ESPN writer Gare Joyce compares Oleksiak to Norris Trophy winner and Boston Bruin giant Zdeno Chara, in that both, at this age, were tall and thick – already filled out. But in terms of skill, Oleksiak more closely resembles Buffalo Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers.

“A player with that sort of frame needs to build strength and fill out,” said an NHL scout in an interview with ESPN.com. “It’s hard for major junior kids to do the gym work in season but college kids can with just games on weekends. The Northeastern program is good for getting kids to the gym year-round. You can see that (Oleksiak) has made real progress from one year (in the USHL) to the next (as a freshman) on conditioning.”

Scouts are wild about Oleksiak’s size, of course. He can intimidate even the largest opponents, and has the strength to be physical. Unfortunately, scouts have noticed that he fails to be as physical as many his size tend to be. They would like to see him use his body more, both on the rush and in front of the net. But more questions arose over the past few years about Oleksiak’s skating ability, as many his size don’t have the talents to move around the ice as quickly as necessary to succeed in the NHL.

“The key questions you have to make for a player like this are: Can he turn? How does he handle speed?” the scout continued. “At this stage Oleksiak is probably a little behind where Myers was on that count — Myers was painfully skinny but he was a good if not fluid skater — but Oleksiak isn’t that far behind. Myers will probably have an advantage in the north-south speed but that’s not the big part of this evaluation. This kid will be a first-rounder and Myers’s success will help him. How much? If you said the second ten (of the draft) you’d have a good chance of him being in that range.”

But fortunately for Oleksiak, his skating has continued to improve, and will most likely only get better in the upcoming years. No one should expect him to appear in the NHL the year after being drafted, but in a few years, with great coaching and some hard work on the part of Oleksiak, he just might be that player every team hates to see multiple times per season.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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