Coming into this past season, Xavier Ouellet was a player that both fans and the front office of the Red Wings wanted to get a better look at. Having played a total of 30 regular season games since being called up in the 2013-2014 season, XO was someone that we were anxious to see what he was made of. After seeing him in extended action, he may in fact be made of the physical representation of "meh"...
Born: July 29, 1993, Bayonne, France (age 24)
Height, Weight: 6’1", 208lbs
Contract: 2 years remaining, AAV $1.25 million (RFA in 2019)
Games Played: 66
5v5 CF%: 49.16%
Like the majority of the Red Wings’ defenders, Ouellet did not have a stellar 2016-2017 campaign. However, that doesn’t mean the year was without any personal success for the young defender.
His 66 games played were the most of his short career, with his playing time jumping over 90 seconds above his previous season average. XO’s 12 points were also a career high, eclipsing his previous mark of 3 points in 2014-2015.
However, defensemen are valued almost as much for what they do without the puck as they are with it - and in that respect, Ouellet has some room to improve. At 5v5, other teams usually got the best of the shot-attempts battle with XO on the ice. Breaking it down further, he really did us no favors when the Wings were ahead (CF of 45.23%) or when the game was close (46.89%). He did help drive possession in our favor when the team was behind (50.32%) or tied with their opponent (50.47%), and those two numbers were actually good for 5th best and 3rd best among Detroit defensemen who played at least 10 games. However, the team as a whole struggled to put games away and hold leads, meaning Ouellet’s efforts when down or tied were largely for naught.
The silver lining in all this is that Ouellet is only 24. As far as defensemen go, he still has some time before he "is what he is", although that point is looming on the horizon. With most of the team looking to hopefully take steps forward this season, I’d put XO’s high-water-mark at 20 points. He should be able to get there with improved play and if he can top his 66 game stint from last year, plus he could get some higher quality line-mates depending on how Kronwall’s minutes get shuffled.
But don’t get overly hyped - this is a young kid who still doesn’t get any significant time with the man advantage, which limits his impact on the scoresheet. That could be for the best, as he really only played his first "full season" last year and is most likely still adapting to how Blashill & Co want him to be used. He’s not going to become the next Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban over this offseason, but if he can show some steady improvement then he may be able to cement himself as a fixture on the 2nd defensive pairing.
Predict Ouellet's Upcoming Season!
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82 GP, 25p, 20:00+ TOI/G, 52% CF
75 GP, 20p, 19:00+ TOI/G, 50.5% CF
65 GP, 15p, 18:00+ TOI/G, 49.5% CF