DETROIT – Defenseman Xavier Ouellet got his first taste of the NHL last season, appearing in four regular-season games with the Red Wings.
“When hockey people get to know him, coaches get to know him, general managers get to know him, to be around him and scouts get to talk to him, he knows what he wants,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He wants to be the best and he's doing everything he can. That's why when he turned pro, he was our first call-up. Mike Babcock believed in him.”
Ouellet was drafted by the Red Wings with the 48th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. The defenseman made his NHL debut last October in Detroit’s 1-0 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. He appeared in three more regular-season games (Nov. 9, Nov. 12 and April 13), notching four shots and earning two penalty minutes. Also, he made his Stanley Cup playoff debut in Game 5 of the Red Wings Round 1 series against Boston.
“He knows that his combination of strength, size and skating,” Fischer said. “Obviously, improving size is pretty tough. You can get a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger and a little bit wider. His skating needs to improve, but thanks to him being so smart on the ice, he doesn't put himself in tough situations. He doesn't put himself in races that he would lose. If there are 50-50 pucks dumped out of the offensive zone he always knows how to be first on the puck. He plays well under pressure.”
During his QMJHL rookie season in 2009-10, Ouellet played in 43 games for the Montreal Juniors. He earned two goals and 14 assists, and was named to the league’s all-rookie team. The following season, Ouellet increased his scoring to eight goals and 35 assists.
Ouellet was named team captain after the Juniors relocated from Montreal, and scored a career-high 21 goals with 39 assists in 63 games during his third QMJHL season. He was also named to the league’s first all-star team.
Ouellet played in the QMJHL for one more season, and also skated for Canada in the 2013 World Junior Championship. He scored 10 goals with 31 assists in 50 games and was one of the top defensemen for Canada at the WJC, scoring a power-play goal with two assists in six games.
“Two years ago, the year after we drafted him, he was runner-up for defenseman of the year in the Quebec Junior League,” Fischer said. “Last year, he had a high-ankle sprain. He missed the whole Subway Super Series. He played in the Canadian (junior team) selection camp in the summer and he just sells himself on character and hockey IQ. He competes on every shift.
“That summer, he impressed Team Canada so much that even though he had a high-ankle sprain, they basically waited for him until halfway through the camp and into the exhibition games before the World Junior started last year. They had him as a top four (defenseman) already.”
Ouellet appeared in 70 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season, earning four goals and 12 assists and a plus-3.