Blackhawks’ Jordan Oesterle Is A Training Camp Dark Horse

EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 11: Jordan Oesterle
EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 11: Jordan Oesterle /

The Blackhawks didn’t sign Jordan Oesterle just to provide depth to their system

Now that training camp is upon us, it’s time to start analyzing what this roster may look like on opening night October 5th against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

All the talk in the news is how hotshot Alex DeBrincat will crack the roster and predicting how many points he will score playing on Patrick Kane‘s line.  It’s understandable that DeBrincat is getting the bulk of the attention considering he led the Blackhawks prospects to a Traverse City tournament championship but there are many more areas of the Blackhawks game that need improvement.

If you factor in Brent Seabrook‘s possible decline and Connor Murphy being an unknown at this point coming from Arizona, it may be safe to say that Duncan Keith is the only trustworthy defenseman the Blackhawks have right now.  Keith already logs more minutes than anybody in the league practically and isn’t getting any younger.  So after those three, it’s not clear who will be able to step in on a constant basis and soak up valuable minutes.

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Cody Franson signed a PTO with the ‘Hawks and some think it will turn into a full contract once Marian Hossa‘s cap hit is transferred to LTIR on day two of the season.  Franson has good experience and seems like a decent answer for the 3rd line but he still doesn’t solve all of the ‘Hawks problems.  Guys like Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, and Jan Rutta will all battle for the last two spots, but how much confidence do you have in them?

Then there are second tier guys that are talented but probably still need some seasoning in the AHL.  Guys like Luc Snuggerud, Carl Dahlstrom, Robin Press, Robin Norell, and Darren Raddysh will make the Rockford Ice Hogs a whole lot better this year, but aren’t ready for the NHL just yet.

And then there are the leftovers with Viktor Svedberg, Vilie Pokka, and Erik Gustafsson who all struggled in Rockford last year, yet they survived the mass turnover over the summer.  It’s difficult to predict where they will end up if they don’t show significant improvement.  Probably wherever Mark McNeil is right now.

Jordan Oesterle

The Blackhawks blue line hasn’t had this many holes going into a season in a long time, and most of that has to do with the departure of Niklas Hjalmarsson.  His reliability in the defensive zone and his ability to quickly get the puck to Blackhawks forwards made him invaluable.

With that being said, the Blackhawks are looking to find and replace Hjalmarsson’s reliability and Jordan Oesterle may be the guy to do it.

Oesterle has been in the Edmonton Oilers system the last few years and wasn’t able to crack their starting lineup despite them being relatively thin on defense in recent years.  The undrafted defenseman from Western Michigan has now played three seasons in the AHL scoring a career high 32 points in 44 games last season with the Bakersfield Condors.

On the first day of free agency, Oesterle was one of the players GM Stan Bowman snagged right away.  At 6’0 184 pounds, Oesterle isn’t the biggest guy on the ice but he can rip it from the point.  He’s praised for his great skating ability, his commitment to defense, and shot blocking.

As Oesterle enters Blackhawks training camp, his experience in the AHL will give him a good chance to play with the ‘Hawks this season.  They aren’t desperate for guys like Debrincat although having him on the team would be nice if he’s ready.  The need right now is reliable defenseman who are young and can learn from vets like Seabrook and Keith.  At 25, Oesterle has a lot of great traits to his game where he could benefit greatly from the Blackhawks system.

Next: Anisimov, Sharp Interesting Third Line Options

It’s relatively easy for fans to jump to conclusions regarding prospects that show some promise, but they need to consider the speed of the NHL game.  When you’re out there with the best players in the world, it’s a lot harder to make an individual impact.  That’s why maturity and development are so important to a coach like Joel Quenneville who rarely trusts young players.  Jordan Oesterle isn’t a rookie and he looks like he’s ready to take his game to the next level.