You can't teach size. This seems to be the consensus from Stars media and fans alike after the Dallas Stars selected 18 year old Jamieson Oleksiak of Northeastern University with their 14th pick in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The first thing that comes to anyone's mind when looking at the guy is "Wow, he's big." If you hadn't seen Zdeno Chara play much before you might be asking yourself if he's going to be one of the larger NHL players the league has ever seen.
The funny thing is that at 6'7", 244 lbs and only 18 years old, he might not be done growing and filling out yet. We'll see. Some people are scared off by drafting for size and ordinarily it can be a cause for concern with defensemen because it generally comes with a description of "can't skate very well," but early returns on Oleksiak are encouraging. NHL Central Scouting has very high praise for his skating ability, identifying it as rare for a kid as big as he is.
He's a defensive defenseman, and makes no mistake about it when he tells media that he models his game after Chara. He wants to use his size to his advantage to cover a lot of ice and limit scoring chances.
Called an American by the TSN broadcast, who clarified that he has dual citizen ship, he was actually born in Toronto (his father is an American from Buffalo) and moved to Detroit in his teens to play hockey there for whatever reason. That led him to the USHL development program and from there he went to Northeastern.
I'm going to call him an American, as he was invited to the USA U18 camp for the World Junior Championships next year, plus (no offense Art), most Stars fans are Americans.
American or Canadian, more important to Joe Nieuwendyk likely was the fact that he's a college man, like Joe was himself (Cornell) and we've already seen Nieuwendyk comb the college ranks for talent in his short sting as GM.
When can he get here?
This is a question asked by most fans when a guy is taken in the first round. Sometime between picks three and seven the ability of guys to make NHL rosters right out of their first ever training camp diminishes greatly and is rarely, rarely seen. At #14, and 18 years old, it seems likely that he'll need at least two more years before possessing the maturity (he certainly has the size already) to make the leap and help the Stars in Dallas or Cedar Park.
The good news, however, is that having played in the USHL and NCAA, not Canadian Juniors, before being drafted, he will not have to play four years of Canadian Junior hockey before being eligible to play in the AHL like many players do. (Players that started off in Juniors). So even if he does transfer out of Northeastern to play in the OHL with Saginaw, he could still make the jump to Cedar Park in the next couple of years.
That being said, Joe Nieuwendyk likes his college players, as we mentioned, and while the decision is ultimately up to Jamie and his family, we wouldn't be surprised or dismayed to see Oleksiak play out his career in the NCAA.
Continued after the jump...
When you add Oleksiak to names like Patrik Nemeth, Brenden Dillon, Philip Larsen, Alex Theriau and John Klingberg you start to see a hopeful future on the blue line in the coming years, but now Stars fans will inevitability turn their attentions to the center position, which many had hoped #14 would address on Friday night.
We won't judge this draft yet of course, because only one of six picks has been made, but suffice it to say that most of Stars nation is a little happier with this one than they were with Mr. Campbell last year, through no fault of his own.
Stars fans could get their first chance to see Jamieson defending a Dallas net (possibly one occupied by one Jack Campbell) at the teams developmental camp that is expected to start the first weekend of July or possibly after the 4th of July weekend. We'll let you know about that.
And we'll be back with some quotes from Oleksiask that emerge from up there in Minnesota, where they apparently still carry some animosity towards the Dallas Stars for having left them so long ago. #getoverit
*Special mention to Stefan Noesen, who went 21st in tonight's draft. He was born and raised right here in North Texas and is being touted tonight as Plano's own. Congratulations to the young man and to hockey in North Texas in general for producing an NHL first rounder! Well done.
Here's Oleksiak. Get to know him...