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Red Wings Player Grades: Xavier Ouellet

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Player Profile

Born: July 29, 1993, Bayonne, France
Height, Weight: 6’1”, 200 lbs
Position: Defense
Contract: 1 left at $715,000 (RFA in 2018)

Player Stats

Games Played: 66
Goals: 3
Assists: 9
Score-Adjusted CF%: 48.28%

Season Narrative

Xavier Ouellet was another young defenseman who made the jump from the AHL’s Griffins to the Red Wings’ roster on a full-time basis this year. Like Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul in his graduating class, Ouellet found himself out of waiver options after the end of last season and faced somewhat of a crossroads in his career. Going into the Wings’ training camp I think it was clear he’d be on the roster to start the season, but how much he’d play in the NHL would be another question entirely. Competition for a spot in the lineup was plentiful; Alexey Marchenko had already established himself as a steady option for the Wings on the back-end, Ryan Sproul was trying to crack the NHL lineup in a similar situation to Ouellet’s, and Nick Jensen cleared waivers but still was knocking on the door from the minor leagues too.

As fate would have it, Niklas Kronwall’s lingering knee injury opened up a temporary spot on the blueline for Ouellet and he was a member of the Wings’ opening night roster. Ouellet played in the Wings’ first six games up to November 2nd before Kronwall’s return on the 4th relegated him to duty as the 7th defenseman.

Ouellet sat for about 10 games, but an injury to Brendan Smith on the 28th opened the door for him again. He stepped back into the lineup and would not relinquish his spot for the remainder of the year. All told, Alexey Marchenko was waived, Brendan Smith was traded and Ryan Sproul only managed to dress for 27 games. Xavier Ouellet, after 3 seasons in the AHL, finally managed to crack the Wings’ lineup and earn regular playing time as well.

What He Did vs Expectations

While he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations the Red Wings had for him when they drafted him in the second round in 2011, Xavier Ouellet has at least developed into a legitimate NHL defenseman. Coming off another strong season for the Grand Rapids Griffins where he registered 29 points in 61 games and earned All-Star honors for the second season in a row, expectations weren’t sky-high but I think a lot of Wings fans expected him to hold onto a regular spot as a #4 or #5 defenseman.

Ouellet certainly did that, averaging just over 17 minutes in TOI each game and quietly going about his business on the back-end. His Quality of Competition wasn’t as high as Nick Jensen’s, and neither was his on-ice shot metrics, but on a team full of net-negative players, Ouellet’s steady game was rather welcome.

At the end of it all, he finished 112th out of 300 defensemen in @DTMAboutHeart’s Goals Above Replacement measure; 80th in Even Strength Defense and 126th in Even Strength Offense. @dommluszczyszyn’s Game Score metric rates Ouellet just slightly below Nick Jensen as a 3rd pairing defenseman, and a quick look at Ouellet’s HERO Chart seems to support the notion that he’s definitely got a future in the NHL.

As far shot metrics like CF% go, Ouellet was roughly average among Red Wing defensemen (often 4th or 5th out of the 10 that logged 250+ minutes of 5v5 icetime this year). And he ranks about average among NHL defenders with the same number of 5v5 minutes logged (125th out of 233). Not bad if you ask me.

Final Grade: B

I think Xavier Ouellet is going to be a mainstay on the Red Wings’ blueline for the foreseeable future. He’s a cheap defenseman who plays a quiet, steady game and I’m glad he was able to finally stick with the Red Wings this season. Will he still have a spot after Saarijärvi, Hicketts, Cholowski, Hronek, etc. get to the big leagues? That remains to be seen. But for the time being, the Red Wings could definitely do a lot worse than Xavier Ouellet.


What Grade Should Xavier Ouellet Receive?

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