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Today's player profile is on Braden Oleksyn and is penned by Jason Hopkins...
ONE MAN SHOW
To steal a line from the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ for Braden Oleksyn at the 2010 Western Canadian Bantam Championships last April: his Saskatoon Frostbite went 0-4 and were outscored 20-6 in the process. The silver lining for Oleksyn personally was that those six goals all came from his stick, and he could have added a couple more if he hadn’t been stymied on a pair of penalty shots. “We did alright for being a Saskatchewan team,” says Oleksyn. “All the teams there were AAA, we were AA. We went there and gave it our all. I did pretty good myself. I got all six of our team’s goals. I just had a successful tournament.”
Those six goals were good enough to lead the tournament in scoring and, more importantly, helped boost his confidence going forward. “We still play against a lot of talented players in our league, in our province. But when you go up there, it's the best of the best. You're playing against the top draft picks and I went up there and did really well. It gave me a lot of confidence. I can compete with these guys, what's next?”
Oleksyn's performance at the Western Canadians also helped propel him up the Bantam rankings, with some scouts projecting him as a top five pick in the upcoming 2011 WHL Bantam draft; something he's not letting get to his head or taking for granted. “You hear that stuff and you can listen to it but you can only listen to so much of it. You can't let your head swell. You just have to go out there and keep working hard. I don't really care just as long as I go to a team that I have a chance to play for in the future.”
Oleksyn didn’t have much time to reflect on the tournament or worry about where he'll be drafted. Instead, he was in the gym working to get bigger, faster and stronger in order to prepare this season. Oleksyn decided to forgo his second year Bantam with the Frostbite and move up to Saskatchewan's Midget AAA league to play for the Beardy's Blackhawks. It wasn't a decision Oleksyn took lightly, knowing he’d be lining up against players two and three years his senior. “After Westerns I went out to Beardy's spring camp and performed really well. They talked to me and said if I wanted it I have a spot on their team. I just talked about it with my family and some other coaches and some other hockey people and they said that would be the best route for me to go and develop.”
Oleksyn has an outstanding offensive skill set, he plays a hard-nosed, aggressive game; but perhaps a more important quality when projecting his long-term hockey success is his desire to compete and continually improve. “You just always have to get better in your skating, your strength. I want to get a little better in my defensive zone. Getting pucks out of our end, just playing a well-rounded game. I would say my biggest strength is my work ethic. I'll just work my ass off and won't give up.”
Oleksyn looks like he’s well on his way to bigger and better things in the hockey world, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking too far ahead. Taken straight from the book of hockey clichés, he offers the following on his hockey future: “I haven't set any goals. I'm just going to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time. Just go out there and do my best and challenge myself and play to the best of my abilities.” Sounds like a pro already. - Jason Hopkins
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