For Ozzy Wiesblatt, life has been a challenge from the get go. Every day of his youth, he endured various levels of competition from his three brothers Ocean, Orca and Oasiz, forcing them all to continue upward and onward in their hockey journey. In an excellent piece by The Athletic’s Scott Cruickshank, Ocean, the elder of the five Wiesblatt siblings, tells the tale of how the four brothers ripped out the carpet from the basement floor and used the bare floor as an imaginary hockey rink.
Having deaf parents and little money growing up, all of the brothers are prime examples of how you can come a long way with mental toughness, imposed maturity and a fair bit of generosity and goodwill from friends and strangers in your proximity.
Ozzy is brother number three in the family. He has been fortunate enough to not only be mentally strong but to also be an exceptionally gifted young hockey player. It is still uncertain how far it will eventually take him in his career, but it’s fair to assume that his career will continue far beyond the WHL.
Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta
Date of birth: March 9, 2002
Weight: 183 lbs.
Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Coming off a stellar season, where his 70 points saw him finish 17th in scoring, Wiesblatt enters the 2020 NHL Draft as a projected second-round pick. What most analysts are drawn to is his ability to blend speed with intensity, providing opponents with an everlasting nuisance as soon as he’s on the ice. Combine this with a terrific sense of playmaking, loads of intelligence and a fair bit of deception and you have yourself a prospect to look out for, both now and in the future.
Though he isn’t the biggest guy, he plays larger than his size would suggest. Wiesblatt is a fierce competitor and works reasonably well in both directions already. He is not afraid to get physical against his peers, though he will eventually need to add more muscle mass if that should continue to be a factor for him in the pro leagues as well.
Wiesblatt is more of a passer than he is a shooter. Even if he did improve his goal-scoring numbers during his draft-eligible season, his quick release doesn’t show up often enough for it to be considered a current asset of his.
Coming from the WHL and being an undersized — yet feisty — right-winger, there is an obvious comparison to be drawn. Wiesblatt doesn’t have the same knack for finding the net, nor will he be lowballed in the same way Brendan Gallagher was in 2010. Gallagher is also much more talented at playing the more static role in offensive zone, while Wiesblatt almost exclusively attacks off the rush.
Still, he does provide you with the same intangibles of determination and aggressiveness. This, in combination with his more than solid offensive numbers, paints an intriguing picture for front offices to consider.
Another player may remind you of is Nick Robertson, who was selected by Toronto in the second round just last year. Both players are undersized wingers with lots of skill and a relentless forechecking ability.
There are other things to like about Wiesblatt as well. Speaking of him playing off the rush, his transition game is excellent and his zone entries help his team retain possession, as demonstrated below by Elite Prospects’ CHL aficionado Mitch Brown:
Ozzy Wiesblatt (2020) leads this year's CHL Tracking Project in controlled entries per 60 with 22.— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) March 22, 2020
Crossovers, deception, changes in speed, handling, and off-puck acceleration -- here's how Wiesblatt combines all of those elements for transition success. pic.twitter.com/eeSeNfrqdJ
It’s too early to tell if Wiesblatt will end up having as illustrious a career as Gallagher has had at the NHL level, but he does have quite a few admirers among the draft analyst community. In fact, few expect him to fall much further than right outside of the first round.
Elite Prospects: #33
Future Considerations: #40
McKeen’s Hockey: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #19 (North American skaters)
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #52
Wiesblatt is not an immediate impact player, but then again, players picked outside of the top three rarely ever are. There are still raw elements to his overall game which could use another couple of years of tuning. This would mean that he could bulk up and also refine his game further so he doesn’t have to rely on purely being a counter-attack type of winger.
There are players like Carter Savoie who can amaze you with their raw talent and make you wonder what would happen if one day they could put it all together. Then there are players like Wiesblatt who are just really good across the board. The negatives I have listed here are basically his size and that he hasn’t shown off his shot enough.
As stated, he plays considerably tougher than his size would suggest and he will have plenty of time and space to increase his shot total now that he is relied upon as a leader, veteran and go-to guy for the Prince Albert Raiders. As of now, he is a few years away from an NHL career. Then again, so was Robertson when he was drafted.
A playmaker who can provide speed, grit and hockey intelligence, while having already overcome his fair share of adversity in his young life. There are several reasons why teams will have Ozzy Wiesblatt high on their boards come Draft day.