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After tough choices, Oleksiak ready to play hockey

by Mike G. Morreale /
EDMONTON, Alta. -- Now that the decision has been made to leave Northeastern University and join the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League for the 2011-12 season, defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak would just like to focus on what he does best -- play hockey.
Oleksiak, taken by the Dallas Stars with the 14th pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, didn't at all appear uncomfortable discussing his decision that was certainly a hot topic when made back on July 25. He was focused and straightforward and is obviously excited to be invited to the Canadian National Junior development camp this week. Having a shot at wearing the maple leaf logo on his jersey is something he couldn't really put into words.
Oleksiak, who holds dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, had been invited to attend USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp held Aug. 6-13 in Lake Placid, N.Y., but instead opted for Hockey Canada camp.
"Sure, it was probably tough at the dinner table having an American mom and Canadian dad," Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "But this is his first attempt at being a part of the Team Canada scenario. We had to do a lot of selling to get him here and play, and I'm glad he made the decision to play for Canada."
Oleksiak decided to join Canadian camp three days after opting to forego his college career at Northeastern and sign with Saginaw.
"First of all, I want to say Northeastern and Saginaw are both great programs; it was unfortunate I had to leave Northeastern because there are a lot of great players and there's a great coaching staff," Oleksiak told "I spoke to (new head coach) Jim Madigan and he'll do a great job so I'm really excited for those guys.
"But for me, it was more from a personal development standpoint, I think, why I made the decision. I wanted to kind of focus on hockey and get more games in and felt the CHL was that kind of the path. I had an opportunity to play 60 more games and there's more focus on the hockey and the on-ice aspect of the game. That's what I really wanted, so that kind of factored into the decision."
Prendergast was asked if he felt Oleksiak, who was paired with Brandon Gormley (a 2010 pick of the Phoenix Coyotes) on the opening day of camp here at Rexall Place, had a good chance of making the final 22-man roster that is determined in December.
"You can't teach 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds," Prendergast said. "We think he has a good chance to make the team, but he's got to go out and prove that, too."

Oleksiak had attended USA Hockey's final junior evaluation camp last year, but as the second-youngest player invited for the team that went to the 2011 WJC, he didn't make the cut.
"You can always learn something from any camp you attend but the thing I really took from U.S. camp last year was the professionalism," Oleksiak said. "All the players came into that camp with a job they wanted to do, and that's what really rubbed off on me. I saw that and that's kind of how they approached the game on and off the ice … a lot of dedication. That's the same thing I see here in Canada camp … there are a lot of dedicated and focused kids. I want to bring that maturity in and be one of those guys with a solid work ethic."
Oleksiak said the Stars organization has no intention of rushing his development. Really, that's probably the best-case scenario for the young and improving blueliner, who continues to learn.
"They're supportive of my decisions and they want me to continue my development curve," he said. "It's been pretty steep, so they want me to continue on that path. When they feel I'm ready, I'm ready. They're not pushing a certain deadline or rushing my development. They understand it'll come and they've been supportive the whole way; willing to provide any services I need to get there."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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