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Ouellet makes great impression in debut

Rookie defenseman turned in solid performance Monday night

Tuesday, 10.22.2013 / 12:27 AM ET / News
By Andrea Nelson  - Editorial Assistant | DetroitRedWings.com
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Ouellet makes great impression in debut

Xavier Ouellet

DETROIT Xavier Ouellet’s time in Detroit may have been short, but it was very sweet.

The 20-year-old was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins Monday, and made his NHL debut with Detroit during the team’s 1-0 shootout loss to San Jose. The defenseman skated in place of Jonathan Ericsson, whose fiancé delivered the couple’s first child Monday afternoon, a daughter named Liv.

“I was really excited,” Ouellet said of making his debut. “I was happy to have my opportunity and I just wanted to get the best of it. It’s a loss so it’s kind of hard to say I feel good but I’m pretty proud of my game. There are a few things to still work on but it was really exciting and a great experience.”

The Bayonne, France, native returned to Grand Rapids Tuesday, but made a lasting impression on his coaches and teammates during his short time wearing Red and White.

“I think he played very well, he made it easy on myself too,” said defenseman Brendan Smith. “I think he’s got a lot of skill and he understands the NHL or the professional way to play. You have to get the puck in the top guy’s hands, we have some great forwards and he understood that. He made the easy, simple play and that’s how he stayed out of trouble and it actually ended up working out really well for our D pairing.”

Ouellet recorded one shot on goal and one hit in 17:15 of ice time against the Sharks, including a hit on San Jose’s Joe Thornton that couldn’t be ignored.

“I thought he was great,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “He did a great job keeping everyone in front of him. He battled, he had a big hit on Joe (Thornton) there in the first, first game of many for him. He wasn’t afraid to be out there against him and that’s great to see, for X to step up and put a guy of his stature on his rear end.”

It was Ouellet’s first hit, and one that stuck out in his mind after the game.

“I’m pretty proud, I did what I had to do and we’ll see what the coaches think about that,” he said.

The coaches noticed, too. Coach Mike Babcock liked Ouellet’s play through training camp, and recognizes that as a young defenseman, it’s not always about making big plays, but more often about how few mistakes you make.

“Obviously we want them to play and make nice easy plays,” Babcock said. “We want them to do it every time. That’s what Nick Lidstrom made a career of. It’s not a bad way to play. We talk about it all the time. Sometimes we turn the puck over a little too much. Tonight wasn’t one of them.”

In 23 shifts, Ouellet avoided committing any turnovers and spent his time on the bench soaking up knowledge from his fellow defensemen. Smith spent a lot of time after shifts talking to Ouellet to ease the transition between the Griffins and Red Wings systems, a gesture that the rookie greatly appreciated.

“They’re the best players in the world so I learned a lot, how to prepare and get ready on the ice talking and just learning how to play with a lot of structure,” Ouellet said. “These are things I learn every day here.”

Ouellet only had one day to learn as much as he could from the veteran players, and he took advantage of every minute of it. As Smith mentored the young defenseman, he was reminded of a situation he was all too familiar with.

“I did that whole stint where I was up and down, I got my few games in here and there and it was always exciting,” Smith said. “I think you just have to be a sponge and learn from all of the veterans and that’s what I did when I came here. I got to learn from Nick (Lidstrom) and (Niklas) Kronwall and all the guys that are here now. I think that’s the biggest thing for him is just to keep your eyes and ears open and just keep learning so when you get here you stay here.”

Ouellet didn’t stay in Detroit for long, but it’s clear that his first time skating for an NHL team won’t be his last. His hits will always be welcomed in Hockeytown.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 51 18 19 25 37
H. Zetterberg 52 9 25 2 34
T. Tatar 51 15 17 -2 32
G. Nyquist 52 14 15 -2 29
J. Abdelkader 52 14 12 -4 26
P. Datsyuk 37 6 20 11 26
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 38 5 10 6 15
D. DeKeyser 48 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 19 10 4 .932 2.03
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89