It’s not often a six-foot-seven defenseman flies under the radar.
With a draft class that is top heavy with defenseman, Boston based-Northeastern University’s Jamie Oleksiak has done just that for the majority of his freshman season with the team.
Oleksiak had a big second half for the Huskies and scouts have taken notice. The native of Toronto, ON. native shot up Future Considerations’ rankings throughout the year. Unranked in November, Oleksiak debuted on FC’s charts at 47 in November and continued to rise before settling in at 17 in the organization’s final ranking.
Oleksiak played a large role in a season that saw Northeastern exceed many Hockey East followers’ expectations. Oleksiak helped anchor a defensive core that featured just two upperclassmen with a plus-minus of +13. He also added a bit of a scoring pop with four goals and nine assists in 38 games.
Oleksiak talked to Future Considerations about the second half of his season, his preparation for the combine, and his hockey future.
I understand you are staying at Northeastern over the summer, is this primarily for hockey, school, or both?
Probably a combination of both. I stayed to do some training for the combine as well as for next season with our strength coach here and at the same time I figured I might as well get caught up and get ahead in school so I’m taking a couple of classes as well as training.
Some of the younger players struggle to go from the USHL to the college game, but it seems as if your transition was pretty smooth.
Yeah for sure, it was a pretty big jump. It’s a whole another level with college hockey, but I think my success and growth really is owed to the coaching staff and all the [returning players] on the team. With all the freshman the returning players did a really good job making us feel really welcome and got us ready for the season. I was pretty nervous at the start of the season and didn’t really know what would come my way, but everyone did a really good job taking the younger guys under their wing.
You finished -2 in the Hockey East tournament despite leading Northeastern in plus-minus pretty much all year. Was this bit of a disappointment for you?
Obviously you want to have good stats in the playoffs, but I am really more concerned with the fact that we got knocked out. I think I had a pretty solid performance in the playoffs though my stats don’t really reflect that, but like I said I’m more concerned with that we didn’t advance to as far as we would have hoped.
Your last hockey game was a little over two months ago in the Hockey East tournament, do you feel like there’s an extended amount of pressure to do really well at the combine because of such a long layoff?
I don’t think there’s going to be any real pressure and I’m just going to go in there and do as well as I possibly can. I’m sure all guys are going to go in there and do as well as possible with such high expectations across the board.
One of the things scouts and GMs look for is how well you do in big games and against big teams. You had a really good Beanpot tournament in February on the big stage at the TD Garden. How much of a confidence booster was this for you in the last month or so of the season?
It was a really huge tournament for us. Obviously we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, but anytime you get to play in games like that it’s something you’ll remember for your entire life. It was definitely a huge confidence booster seeing all the support from the Northeastern hockey fans and just people in general and I think it really started to turn heads and gave our program some exposure to the players we have here. The tournament really helped us as a team as well being a huge confidence booster and helped us with the last leg of our season and games against top teams.
In these two months after your season ended, has there been anything you have really been focusing on with getting ready for the combine?
My advisors have been great preparing me for the combine in both the fitness testing as well as the interviews. They say that the interviews are probably as important as the fitness testing and where you show your true colors and have given me kind of what to expect and have been throwing some questions at me that I might have to approach. Obviously you don’t know exactly what teams will be asking, but you can kind of get the idea of what might come up. Really it’s just a matter of staying physically ready, being confident, and being able to answer those questions. In terms of the physical side of the combine I also have a pretty good idea of what to expect since my advisors are pretty experienced with that side. I’ve run through all of the tests and I’ve been working hard with our Strength and Conditioning coach Dan Boothby in helping me get ready so I feel really comfortable about next week.
Speaking of questions, if a general manager or head scout asks you at the Combine what your weaknesses are and what you have been doing to improve on them, have you given any thought as to how to go about that question?
I would probably say since I’m a big guy and I’m still growing into my size and with that I want to work on my lateral movement and fast footwork. I think I have gotten better over the season, but I’m still getting bigger and still getting stronger so it’s still being better at pivoting and moving laterally. Another thing I really want to work on would be being more of an intimation factor and a physical force. I had mean streaks and times when I’d play really aggressively, but I want to be more of a player that teams look out for in the corners.
Next year you’ll likely be playing in the World Junior Championship. You played for the US in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and tried out this year for the US World Juniors team, but you could still play for Canada. Is it safe to say that you would prefer to play for the US in Calgary/Edmonton?
It’s definitely a tough decision to make and I grew up in Canada and I’m also an American citizen and moved when I was 14. It’s an honor to be able to represent either country and I’ve had the honor of wearing the US jersey a couple of times and they were the first team to give me an opportunity to represent my country and I’m really grateful for that. The US program has been phenomenal for me and I’ve done a lot of my development in the United States playing juniors and college hockey. I don’t want to commit to anything right now, but it’s another decision my family and I will have to make.
Northeastern had 10 freshmen this year counting yourself; you have to be pretty excited about the program’s direction. Have you thought about an of the team’s expectations for next season?
Yeah we had a young team and we started off a little slow [this year], but after Christmas we really hit our stride and you could see it in our success as a team and even players individually. I think the experience and success we had as freshman is really going to help us next year and as long as we can continue to welcome the incoming freshman class and get them ready feeling comfortable and confident playing college hockey I think we can really have a good chance in having a lot of success so it’s really exciting.
Andrew Weiss is a draft correspondent at Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!