Dearborn Heights’ Oesterle a regular on Blackhawks' blue line
After sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch for most games this season, Jordan Oesterle now finds himself on the Chicago Blackhawks’ top defensive pair, playing with two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.
And the Dearborn Heights native has been Chicago’s biggest offensive threat from the blue line, at least before the Blackhawks’ 4-0 loss to the Red Wings at the United Center on Sunday. Before that game Oesterle, who signed with Chicago as a free agent last July 1, had three goals and four assists in seven games since Christmas and was playing up to 25 minutes per game.
That’s more goals than either Keith (zero) or fellow veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook (two) has all season.
Oesterle, 25, has played in 15 consecutive games after being scratched in 25 of the first 29. His totals this season are three goals and 10 points in 20 games and a plus-4 rating.
“Obviously, playing with Duncan and getting the minutes that I have been, it’s definitely given me more confidence,” Oesterle told the Chicago Sun-Times. “To do more things with the puck and maybe be a little more creative than I was earlier in the season, when I was in a couple of games here and there.”
Oesterle’s play and production ultimately made him a winner in a season-long competition with another veteran defenseman, Cody Franson, who was waived by Chicago last week. He cleared waivers and was then sent to the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford.
But that was bittersweet for Oesterle, who had become good friends with Franson.
“I obviously really like Franny,” Oesterle said. “I sat next to him in the locker room, and he was a big factor in keeping me above water when I was going through the early part of the season and not playing.”
The organization has obviously been impressed with Oesterle’s play.
“The one thing is just how encouraged we were with the way Jordan Oesterle’s played,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “He’s come in here and made a big difference.”
Oesterle, 6-feet and 182 pounds, played three seasons at Western Michigan, from 2011-2014, before signing with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent on April 3, 2014. He split time between the Oilers and the AHL for the past three seasons and had three goals and 16 points in 45 NHL games at that time.
Oesterle said his time as a perpetual healthy scratch could be a positive. But he does not want to repeat it.
“You’d rather not go through that,” Oesterle. “But I think in the long term, it might help me in my career. I know what life is like as an extra defenseman, and I don’t want to be in that role ever again.”