Over two Oilers’ rookie contests I’ve listened to a pair of interviews with general manager Craig MacTavish and one with head coach Dallas Eakins. In each of those interviews, they were asked to name an under-the-radar player who had impressed them favourably in the tournament to-date.
In all three cases, Jordan Oesterle was mentioned in answer.
Simpson’s partner showed well, and my brain immediately thought of Taylor Fedun. His stance is a little higher than Fedun, but he’s a smooth skater and passer, has a compact and efficient shot, and has the range to avoid contact most of the game (though isn’t afraid of it). It was a good showing despite a few errors with the puck and some missed reads without it. Simpson covered for him a bit, but Osterle made a case as a competent puck managing defenceman.
Along with Yakimov, Oesterle is the rising player from this year’s Young Stars tournament. He delivers way more offense than the numbers imply and he’s capable defensively. Could this be the next Arcobello (college signing forces his way past draft picks to win the day)? There are many players ahead of him but he’s stood out in a good way this weekend.
He had a pretty decent game with a few hiccups, and was passing the puck nicely enough that Craig MacTavish commented on it at the intermission. Not bad for a guy who Nelson mentioned as cramping up afterward.
Running around a little in his own end early… he was beat back to his own net by an attacking forward; apparently got caught napping… made a bad defensive zone giveaway… threw a hit behind the net that ended up with him getting possession of the puck and then moved it smartly… aggressively jumping into the play four-on-four, nearly with results… aggressive in the defensive zone and got caught way up ice with three guys behind him… he had a bit of a difficult first period by my eye but calmed down the rest of the way. Lots to like in the way he plays the game.
Gap control and puck movement were the two areas that MacTavish and Eakins kept hitting on in interviews, and together those two qualities make Oesterle a somewhat stereotypical college defenceman. He’s a solid positional defender who lacks a physical edge, and a solid puckmover who lacks high-end offence – the kind of player who is good at a lot of things but not great at anything.
It’s important to keep this performance in perspective, of course. In a five-game cameo with the Barons at the end of last season Oesterle got terrible reviews (he went minus-three in that span) and just as that handful of games didn’t define who he was as a player neither do a pair of contests at a rookie tournament.
These games are an indicator. Oesterle’s done enough to impress the people in the organization who really matter, which pushes the door open a little wider for opportunities in training camp and for opportunities down with the Barons this season.
For players already under contract, that’s all that can reasonably come out of a rookie camp.
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