Defensively, Wiesblatt plays a relatively traditional defensive role since moving into the center position this past year. What is notable, is how well developed his defensive nous is, given that relatively short time between switching from the wing to the pivot.
A great deal of this acumen appears to come from his high hockey IQ – that same IQ that he uses to innovate on the offensive end – which helps him find the right spots to position himself coming back into the defensive end. His high octane motor and rapid skating allow him to get there more often than not, and his active stick then is able to knock pucks away or disrupt opposition passing lanes.
Something that both Anaheim Ducks fans and Bob Murray would like to see, is that Ozzy is very involved in the play when in the blue zone, effectively transitioning the puck from defense to offense at a high rate. Specifically, (and again hat tip to Mitch Brown CHL data) Wiesblatt tracks well for controlled exits relative%, success rate relative %, controlled exits per 60, and exit turnover rate relative. Essentially all of the defensive zone exit statistics.
This tracks well current Ducks like Troy Terry upfront and Hampus Lindholm on the blue line, and would easily fit into the play style that the Ducks appear to the pursuing with their younger players. Though like many players who excel in transitioning defense to offense, Wiesblatt can sometimes get caught cheating, or rather, can find himself slightly out of position as he mentally plans the breakout. Spending it before he gets it, so to speak.
It’s worth noting here that Ozzy didn’t receive a lot of penalty kill time these past few seasons. This is in part due to the success of the Raiders PK units, and thus no need to expand Wiesblatt’s role outside of the offensive responsibilities. Keeping in mind that while he was tasked with being a big part of the Raiders team this season after losing eight of the stronger players after their championship win last season, he was already shouldering a large burden by moving into the first-line center’s role. Expect to see him receive more ice time short-handed in his Draft +1 season next year.
"“An underrated aspect of Wiesblatt’s game is his ability to impact the game off the puck. He is a tenacious forechecker and will deliver big hits; plus position himself properly in the defensive zone after busting it on the backcheck.” –Steve Kournianos"
For a smaller player, Ozzy is also is not afraid to throw his weight around and get right up in his oppositions grill. I wouldn’t consider him a “pest” in the way that Sean Avery was, but he’s certainly fiery and shows no hesitation in mixing it up with other players. Detractors may suggest that this part of his game may subside in the NHL where everyone is bigger, stronger, or faster than junior hockey, however, it’s worth noting that the WHL is a physical league in its own right and many prospects – in my opinion – are overrated because they play in that environment.
With that said, while Ozzy will need to put on some serious muscle before he’s an NHL regular, he has the time to do so. Thus I don’t think his game will require too much tweaking. If players like Brayden Point can have the success that he has had, then there’s no reason that Wiesblatt can’t fashion an NHL career in his own right.
As an aside, and because I have nowhere else to put it, it’s worth considering that Wiesblatt had a lot of success in the faceoff circle. This is somewhat remarkable for a first-year pivot and fits right into Bob Murray’s wheelhouse. The Anaheim Ducks have long been a strong proponent of the faceoff and acquiring another player who can have significant success in this aspect of the game may go a long way towards their structure and planning for the future.