2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 82 LD Jordan Oesterle
After three seasons of toiling in the minors, it looks like Jordan Oesterle could be about to become a full-time NHL defenceman. The only problem, at least from an Edmonton Oilers perspective, is the team he’s set to make that transition with: The Chicago Blackhawks.
Oesterle signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks at a modest $650,000 cap hit on the first day of free agency. As The Athletic’s Scott Powers notes, not only does Chicago have openings on its blue line, but given the level of interest in Oesterle around the league it might be difficult to get him to the AHL:
Oesterle could begin the season in the NHL. He was pursued by a number of NHL teams in free agency, and the Blackhawks likely wouldn’t want to risk putting him through waivers.
Oesterle is not a sure thing to make Blackhawks next year, or to have a significant NHL career. But he’s got a few factors working in his favour.
The first is that Oesterle has evolved into a high-end offensive defenceman at the AHL level. He had 25 points in 65 games as a rookie with Oklahoma in 2014-15; last season that progressed to 32 points in just 44 games. This is a player who has been making progress during his time in the minors.
That progress was evident during his two-game cameo last season, and it’s probably worth noting that one of those games was against the Blackhawks. Oesterle was incredibly assertive offensively, jumping up on the play, hammering the puck when he got an opportunity. He’s an exciting player, and didn’t allow the fact that he spent most of his NHL minutes on his off-side to stop him.
That didn’t particularly surprise me, because Oesterle’s speed was a known quantity, and obviously he has a significant offensive dimension. What did surprise me was his work defensively; he was good at using his stick to break up plays and more physically combative in one-on-one battles than I had expected.
We’ve seen plenty of fast defencemen with offensive ability make the grade in the NHL in recent years, with several of them similarly sized or smaller than the 6’, 182-pound Oesterle. One such player is Oesterle’s replacement in Edmonton: ex-New Jersey Devil Yohann Auvitu. The 5’11” 192-pound Frenchman is a few years older than Oesterle, but brings the same promise of speed and offence to the Edmonton blue line.
Like Oesterle, Auvitu’s hold on an NHL career is precarious, and like Oesterle it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he finds himself on the waiver wire at some point next year. One of my minor subplots for 2017-18 is whether Auvitu can deliver more than Oesterle; at this point it really could go either way.
Bottom line: Jordan Oesterle developed for three seasons in Edmonton, and in 2016-17 did a good job of setting himself up as a full-time NHL option. This coming season will be the test of whether he’s good enough to play in the majors; it’s just a bit of a shame for the Oilers that the test is going to come in Chicago.
Previous year-end reviews:
- Centre: Leon Draisaitl, Mark Letestu, Drake Caggiula, David Desharnais, Anton Lander
- Left Wing: Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Benoit Pouliot, Matt Hendricks, Jujhar Khaira
- Right Wing: Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Tyler Pitlick, Iiro Pakarinen
- Left Defence: Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse, Dillon Simpson, Griffin Reinhart
- Right Defence: Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Eric Gryba, Mark Fayne
- Goal: Cam Talbot, Laurent Brossoit, Jonas Gustavsson