Xavier Ouellet, who is our (spoiler alert) top ranked defenseman in the prospect pool, takes us to the podium for the bronze medal on the list. Drafted 46th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Ouellet has developed into a well rounded defenseman in the AHL, with good upside for NHL potential. He has some NHL experience, and he’s likely going to get his fair share of ice time this year, since he is waiver eligible this season.
Ouellet had a solid start in the QMJHL, accumulating 160 points over 223 games, although it is a high-scoring league. He particularly excelled in 2011-12, when he had 60 points in 63 games. The following year he played for Team Canada in the World Juniors, getting three points in six games on a team that finished fourth.
He’s been very good in the AHL so far as well, particularly in his most recent season, where he got 29 points in 61 games. His defensive side of the game has improved significantly since he started in the AHL, so he’s certainly ready for the NHL, it’s just a matter of whether or not Blashill will give him the opportunity to develop his game to the NHL level.
Speaking of the NHL level, he’s done quite well there. In 25 games over three seasons, he has three points, but it’s the analytics that look good. His 56.9% 5v5 CF is the third best of defensemen with at least 300 minutes of ice time since 2013-14 (his first season), and his 42.12 5v5 CA60 is the best. Take it with a grain of salt though, as it’s just 431:37 minutes of ice time, and 184:49 of it was played with Brendan Smith, who is eighth in CF%, and second in CA60. However, a good start is a good start, so Wings fans should take what he’s given them thus far.
Ouellet certainly has the tools to become a bonafide NHL defenseman, as he could even be a top four defenseman this season (although that speaks more to Detroit’s lack of depth on the blue line then Ouellet’s skills). However, he has a pretty lengthy depth chart to pass, and while I’d put him ahead of the likes of Jonathan Ericsson, and maybe even Niklas Kronwall, there’s no guarantee that Blashill thinks the same. In fact, I’ll bet that he doesn’t play more than 30 games this season.
It’s a shame, but Ouellet is either going to spend most of his season crushing sodas and mowing down on Little Caesar’s pizza in the press box, or Detroit’s going to risk him on waivers, and he’ll go to a team that will give him the ice time. That’s the problem that Detroit has backed themselves into, and it’s a problem that their going to have to solve, whether through trade, waivers, or the press box.