Welcome to a new summer series on Last Word On Hockey. In preparation for the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21st, LWOH’s Detroit Red Wings Department will be going in depth on every Wing that is eligible to be picked by the newest NHL squad, the Vegas Golden Knights, who will begin play in the fall. The team will likely follow the seven-forward, three-defensemen, and one goalie format of protecting players, and this series will follow suit with that. For a brush-up on the expansion draft rules, click this link. Without further adieu, we will continue this series with Xavier Ouellet, a young defenseman who’s looking to put it all together.
Defense, Shoots Left
6’1″, 208 lbs
Age: 24 (On July 29th)
Cap hit: Restricted Free Agent, Coming Off of 1-year, $715,000 Deal
Reasons for Protection
Xavier Ouellet played 29 games scattered across the three previous seasons before 2016-17, where he suited up for 66 scoring three goals and 12 points. The year previous, he set professional offensive career highs in goals (4) and points (29) for Grand Rapids in the AHL. Continuing his two-way style in his first season, it’s clear Ouellet will need to tighten up on the defensive side of the puck, something he will be able to do with playing full campaigns like his did this past season.
His 54.84 Corsi against per 60 may seem alarming at first glance since he finished second-worst to Jonathan Ericsson on the blueline and 12th worst out of 16 skaters that played 700 minutes, but he made up for it with an already promising start in moving the puck. Among skaters who played 800 minutes, he’s third overall on the team, first on defense, in Corsi-for per 60 at a 52.68 rate. Ouellet will have time to adjust defensively with more seasons under his belt. He also won’t be costing the Wings big for the next few seasons should a contract get done.
Reasons for Exposing
Ouellet would be an odd man out if the team elects to protect veteran defensemen that have earned their place, and he is pretty unproven to this point having played just one full NHL season. There are other defensive prospects making rounds in the Wings system with Joe Hicketts, Vili Saarijarvi, and now Dennis Cholowski, who just turned pro after one season in college. Ouellet may be passed up on the depth chart by these up and comers in the coming years and may have less to offer than them, and would just be an extra roster spot that, given the team’s recent history with young players, could be lost to waivers if other contracts that are left exposed are not taken by Vegas.
The team needs as much help as they can get at this point, especially on defense. Ouellet, though through some “rookie” hiccups, has shown promise in his various stints and finally his first full campaign. He won’t be a top-pairing defenseman. His ceiling would likely be in the second pair. However, he seems to fit what Jeff Blashill‘s system is all about in moving the puck up the ice. He has also played under him for two seasons. He has the potential to be a nice reliable piece that can move from the third to second pairing when called upon and would cost way less than the current conundrum Ken Holland has got himself into. On a team full of depth defensemen at the present, he’d be one to keep.
Check back tomorrow as Tomas Tatar and his contract situation get evaluated after his strong finish to this past season.
Each link is a gateway to analysis of each player.
Mike Green (May 26th)
Advanced stats courtesy of Puckalytics.