Jordan Oesterle doesn’t know what his future holds.
When coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks decide on their opening-night roster, it could include the 25-year-old defenseman. But despite his strong camp, Oesterle might not make the team if the Hawks carry only seven
Yet, Oesterle says that stuff isn’t taking up space in his brain.
“I’m not really thinking about it too much,” Oesterle said after Saturday’s morning skate. He sat out of the Hawks’ 1-0 win over Boston. “Just kind of going about my business, trying to get better every day and show my work ethic on and off the ice.”
Signed by the Hawks to a two-year deal this summer, Oesterle only played two NHL games last season for Edmonton and appeared 44 times for its AHL affiliate. Over his career, he’s played just 25 times in the NHL (all with the Oilers) but has looked like he belongs so far with the Hawks.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Quenneville said. “Certainly, I think that when you look at the beginning of camp, we like the progress that we’ve seen in him.”
The things the Hawks have witnessed in his game are his ability to move the puck, how he sees plays develop, and his quickness. Perhaps most important, the left-shot Oesterle spent most of his time in the Edmonton organization playing on the right and has been on both sides during training camp, and could add valuable flexibility.
“I hope it adds a bit. It just makes me a little more versatile that I can go in on either side,” said Oesterle, who spent the morning skate on the left of a pairing with Cody Franson, a competitor for a roster spot who also didn’t play Saturday. “I’m just trying to figure out what I need to do and what will keep me here and consistently keep me in the lineup.”
That said, there are some things he needs to sharpen to supplement those strengths.
“I think that how he defends around the net or how strong he is in the puck area is a work in progress,” Quenneville said, “but he does a lot of things that you appreciate — involvement in the attack, puts the puck in good areas and tries to make plays.”
Oesterle also knows there are things he needs to work on in his game. But he thinks that the more time he spends with the Hawks, the better he will get.
“Just continuously working on my defensive game and then just making smarter plays with the puck,” Oesterle said, “but that will come with time.”
Oesterle may or may not have that time — the Hawks would have to risk getting him through waivers to send him to Rockford if they don’t keep him on the roster — but he says he has adjusted well to their system in the short time he’s been in Chicago. He said he’s “found it fairly easy to come into,” though he’s still getting used to things the Hawks do differently than the Edmonton organization did, such as how the Hawks match up in the defensive zone and some of the ways they send defensemen into the offensive attack.
“It’s the type of game I like to play, but there’s some things that I can catch myself doing that I need to change to correct to the system, but it just comes with time and repetitions,” Oesterle said. “The longer I’m in this organization, the more it will come naturally to do those things.”