EDMONTON, AB - Jordan Oesterle is a great example of how good things come to those who work hard and wait for their opportunity. Coming into his second professional season, the Oilers defensive prospect worked hard to exceed his already high expectations for himself. After 39 games down in the American Hockey League, Oesterle finally got the call he’d been waiting for.
“It’s exciting. We’re all working down in the American League to get our chance back up here, and to get that call and know my work has been paying off feels good,” said Oesterle.
The Oilers recalled the 23-year-old on Sunday, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. According to Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, Oesterle has been a consistent presence in Bakersfield for the entire season. A call-up is an understandable reward for the second-year pro.
“The coaching staff there has talked about Jordan being one of their better defencemen year-long,” said McLellan. “When you hear that, he deserves the opportunity to come up and get a kick here in the National League. He’ll get that chance.”
Oesterle played collegiately at Western Michigan University, under long-time NHL coach Andy Murray. The Oilers signed the undrafted free agent and have watched him grow in their system. He earned a six-game NHL stint last season.
“Last year was nice to get my feet wet,” said Oesterle. “Now when I come up here, I’m a little more comfortable, I know a bunch of the guys, so it’s nice.”
Oesterle is familiar with the players in the locker room but, probably more importantly, those six games made him more comfortable with the NHL itself.
“I learned a lot. As the games went on, I learned you have to be hard every shift and that’s what it really takes to be here. You have to work as hard as you can every shift and that’s what you do in order to stay.”
Oesterle has 22 points (2-20-22) in 39 games this season for the Condors, just three off his rookie-season total of 25 (8-17-25) in 65 AHL games last season. He has played primarily on the right side, seeing second power-play unit time and skating with various defensive partners.
Oesterle says he plays about four minutes more per night than he did as a rookie, helping him feel and play better than before. Prior to Oesterle leaving Bakersfield, Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming took him aside and told him to play to his strengths and play as hard as he can.
“That’s what is going to get me to the NHL,” said Oesterle.
Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors
The Dearborn Heights, MI native can add “offensive impact” to his call-up to-do list. It’s something he was successful with down in the minors, as described by his former and now current teammate Brandon Davidson.
“Jordan does a great job, offensively, first of all,” said Davidson. “He’s quite the puck-mover, he’s great to jump up in the play. I think his points talk for themselves down in the minors and stuff. He does a great job with his stick in the defensive zone and he was really reliable. As long as he keeps his feet moving and his passes firm, he’ll do a great job.”
Ask the scouts, media or coaches about Oesterle and, undoubtedly, his skating ability is high on their list of characteristics. For Oesterle, his success at the NHL level will be determined by how he uses his skating ability to his advantage, while overcoming a perceived lack of size.
“I understand he skates well, he can move the puck, so that’s a good beginning point,” said McLellan. “He’s not the biggest defenceman in the league, but if he skates well, he can anticipate well and he can move pucks, I’m sure he can be an effective player. Other than that, I don’t think it’s fair to slot him too high or knock him too far down. He’s got to play and then we’ll evaluate.”
Oesterle rotated in with Adam Clendening at practice on Monday. He’s eager to jump in the lineup and show the Oilers staff where he’s developed from last year to now.
“I think the biggest change from year one to year two is just my level of confidence,” said Oesterle. “I’m more confident with the puck in the d-zone and I’ve just gotten better all around.”