He may only have one career NHL appearance under his belt, but Detroit Red Wings defenseman Xavier Ouellet already looks like a player who could help the team out this season if injuries become a concern. The birth of Jonathan Ericsson‘s daughter kept the veteran out of the lineup for Monday’s shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, and Niklas Kronwall missed a second consecutive game with a concussion. That opened the door for Ouellet to make his debut, playing 17 minutes alongside Brendan Smith against the Sharks. Smith played what was arguably this best game of the season, and the Red Wings defense stood tall and helped goaltender Jimmy Howard turn aside all 27 San Jose shots in regulation and overtime.
Ouellet was a second round pick in the 2011 draft, and was a QMJHL standout for the Montreal Juniors/Blainville-Boisbriand Armada over the past four seasons. He started this season playing in the AHL for the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he had two assists in five games. He was impressive in all aspects of his game on Monday, displaying great puck control and crisp passing. With Adam Almquist and Ryan Sproul also waiting in the wings, Ouellet has to know he must make every opportunity count. He may have been sent back down to the AHL already, but he’ll be one of the first players called back up
Kronwall has been medically cleared is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday, but Ericsson could now miss significant time with a shoulder injury he suffered on Saturday. That leaves the Wings with only six defensemen, as the salary cap issues plaguing them at the forward positions leave them with limited options. Given all of the issues the Red Wings have had on defense the past two seasons, this likely isn’t the last time Ouellet will wear the winged wheel this season.