Oleksiak Ponders Future After Draft
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Reporter
Not only did Jamie Oleksiak become the first college player selected in this year’s NHL Draft when the Dallas Stars took him at No. 14, but he also became the highest-picked player in Northeastern history.
The 6-foot-7 defenseman saw his stock rise throughout his freshman season as he improved his game and adjusted to the speed of college hockey. Oleksiak was ranked just 27th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s mid-season rankings, making him a projected second-round pick, but he rose all the way to No. 13 by the end of the season.
Oleksiak said the biggest key to his improvement was adding some muscle to his massive frame.
“Coming into college, I was a pretty small kid,” Oleksiak said. “I put on a lot of weight and kind of filled out. As I got physically bigger, I think a lot of aspects of my game improved, whether it be throwing a hit or shooting or making a pass.”
Oleksiak played in all 38 Northeastern games last season. He led the Huskies with a plus-13 rating and tied for second among the team’s defensemen with 13 points on four goals and nine assists. He credited his Northeastern coaches and teammates for a lot of his success.
“Everyone at Northeastern has really helped me out, whether it’s been the coaching staff or guys on the team,” he said. “I think the veterans did a great job kind of making us young guys feel welcome and feel like part of the team and really develop our game and get ready for the college culture and the college atmosphere. Northeastern’s been tremendously influential in my development, and I owe a lot to that program.”
Still, Oleksiak said he is keeping his options open for next season. Northeastern is currently searching for a new head coach after Greg Cronin left to become an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, raising questions about whether or not Oleksiak will return for his sophomore season.
The consensus is that Oleksiak needs at least another year to develop before going pro, but TSN reported during the draft that the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, who own Oleksiak’s OHL rights, will make a strong push to sign him before the upcoming season. Oleksiak said he hasn’t made any decisions yet and that he’ll talk it over with the Stars before he does.
“As of now, everything’s really up in the air,” Oleksiak said. “We haven’t really decided upon anything. Northeastern’s been great to me. I owe a lot to that program. We’ll have to decide later on. Right now, I’m just trying to take in the moment and enjoy it.”