Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more% games this season (and finished the season with the team) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.
NHL regular season statistics:
AHL regular season statistics:
Key Stat: +26. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but it can occasionally give us insight. Oleksiak's +26 rating is not only tops on the Texas Stars, but it's 20 points higher than the second best defenseman on the team (Cameron Gaunce at +6). It also ranks 5th in the entire AHL, but considering Oleksiak only played 35 games down there he could easily have been 1st if he had spent the full season in Texas given that pace. In those contexts, his +26 is actually quite remarkable. The other team simply doesn't score when he's on the ice.
The Good: Oleksiak is a woolly mammoth on skates, and was by far the biggest player on the Dallas Stars this season. His long reach is able to efficiently break up plays in both open ice as well as along the boards. He doesn't punish opposing players physically, but is getting better at overpowering them or rubbing them out to win puck battles. Oleksiak loves to use his surprising speed to join the rush up ice and start the attack, and he's gotten much better at picking the right times to do it while also ensuring that he quickly gets back into the defensive zone.
The Bad: Oleksiak has an amazing physical toolbox at his disposal, but is still figuring out how to use all his tools properly. Hockey is a fast game where a lot can happen, and there were far too many instances this season where he made the wrong choice and it cost his team. Needs better on-ice awareness, especially in the defensive zone. Possesses a heavy slapshot, but never puts himself into areas where he can actually unleash it. Physical play might not be part of his natural disposition, but it would benefit his team greatly if he were to play with more nastiness on a regular basis.
Bottom Line: Out of all four rookie defensemen on the Stars this season, the 22 year-old Oleksiak is the youngest. He was frustrating to watch at times, but he still improved a lot this year compared to last year. Spending half of this season in the AHL might be seen as a failure by some, but he's been great in his time with the Texas Stars and that will probably help his long-term development.
Vote now: Rate Oleksiak on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.