Prospect Oleksiak must decide - U.S. or Canada

Bob McKenzie

6/17/2011 11:07:35 AM

Jamie Oleksiak has a decision to make.

Is the 6-foot-7, 244-pound defenceman who is a likely top 20 pick in this year's entry draft an American or a Canadian?

Oleksiak, 18, was born in Toronto and played most of his minor hockey there, but his father is an American and the Northeastern University freshman possesses dual citizenship.

Last December, Oleksiak was invited to and accepted an invitation to try out for Team USA just prior to the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, NY. But Oleksiak didn't make the final roster and, to this point in time, has not played for the U.S. or Canada in any sanctioned International Ice Hockey Federation event.(Oleksiak did play for Team USA in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka U-18 tourney in the Czech Republic, but it's not considered an official IIHF event for purposes of determining nationality).

In other words, his options are wide open for him to determine now whether he wants to play for the Americans or the Canadians. Had Oleksiak made the U.S. world junior team and played in the 2011 WJC, it would be a moot point now -- he would be locked in as an American.

With Zdeno Chara-like physical qualities, it's no surprise that Hockey Canada has significant interest in him for the Canadian national junior team. It seems certain he'll be a first-round pick in next week's NHL entry draft and it would surprise no one if he's a strong consideration in the top 20 of this year's draft class.

Hockey Canada announced its invitees to its summer evaluation camp today at Oleksiak wasn't one of them. That doesn't mean however, that he won't be added at a later date.

Ultimately, it's Oleksiak's call and one can only imagine it's a difficult decision for an 18 year old.

Oleksiak was born and calls Toronto home. He played his minor hockey there until he left as a teeanger to play minor hockey in the Detroit area.

He then played three seasons in the United States Hockey League before attending Northeastern in Hockey East this past season. His Ontario Hockey League playing rights are owned by the Saginaw Spirit, who took him 137th overall in the 2008 OHL priority selection.

There's apparently no firm timeline on when Oleksiak will make his decision. It could happen as early as today or it could wait until after the NHL draft, but at some point the big defenceman is going to have to make the choice between the Maple Leaf and the Stars and Stripes.