Penguins

Who wore it best: No. 61, Steve Oleksy

Welcome to our series on who wore each number best for the Penguins.

The idea is being openly borrowed from our new hockey writer, Cody Tucker, and his project at the Lansing State Journal covering all the uniform numbers worn through Michigan State football history, one that’s been well received by their readers and prompted heavy discussion and debate.

Under my organization, and following the voting of a big chunk of our staff, we’ll publish one new one each day until completion, which should be right around the start of training camp.

___________________

Name: Steve Oleksy
Number: 61
Position: Defenseman
Born: February 4, 1986, in Chesterfield, Michigan
Seasons with Penguins: 2016-17
Statistics with Penguins: 11 games, 1 assist, 24 penalty minutes in regular season

[caption id="attachment_681438" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Steve Oleksy. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

WHY OLEKSY?

Disclaimer: This is the worst number of the whole series.

*drumroll*

We went with Oleksy. Oleksy was the best No. 61. Yes, Oleksy. In a dismal group, Oleksy was the one who had the brightest moments.

Oleksy signed with the Penguins in 2015-16, after spending three years in the Washington Capitals organization, mostly with the Hershey Bears. He dropped the gloves against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton nine times in that span, and wasn't joining the organization as the most popular character.

Oleksy quickly won over Wilkes-Barre fans in his role as an enforcer and was named alternate captain. He contributed offensively, racking up two goals and 17 assists in 63 games, and amassed 123 penalty minutes. He never played a game in Pittsburgh during his first season, but joined the team as a Black Ace during the 2016 Stanley Cup run.

He was the one who handed the Stanley Cup to Mike Sullivan for the first time, and celebrated with the team in the locker room afterwards. At 30 years old, Oleksy had his first-ever taste of alcohol -- a sip of champagne out of the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins re-signed Oleksy for 2016-17, and he again began the season in Wilkes-Barre. He played 11 games in Pittsburgh, registering one assist (and a few pranks).

On March 1, 2017, the Penguins traded Oleksy, Eric Fehr, and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Frank Corrado, freeing up cap space to acquire Mark Streit.

WHAT’S HE DOING NOW?

Oleksy, 32, played for the San Diego Gulls last season, AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. He registered seven goals and 13 assists in 54 games, while acting as one of the Gulls' alternate captains. He'll be back with the Gulls in 2018-19.

Oleksy also runs the Eastside Elite Hockey League in Michigan, an offseason league he started in 2008 as an alternative to beer leagues for higher-level players like himself. This season, the league featured players such as Igor Larionov II and Vladislav Namestnikov. To give you an idea of the level of competition around the league, Oleksy had 11 goals and 20 assists in 11 games this season.

IT WAS SPOKEN

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS AT NO. 61:

Sergei Plotnikov
Luca Caputi

ANY DEBATE?

Look, there was no way to get this one right. We all lose either way. Caputi wore this number for five games before switching to No. 39. Plotnikov obviously wore it the most, for 32 games. Do you go with Oleksy, who wasn't that good but didn't play enough to really hurt the team, or Plotnikov, who was around long enough to show how awful he was?

Chris Benson summed it up well in his tribute video:

Oleksy was at least well-liked and contributed in Wilkes-Barre (even if that is breaking the rules here) and the story of him having his first sip of alcohol at age 30 from the Cup is a good story (even if his Black Ace jersey didn't say No. 61).

Tomorrow: Chris Bradford has No. 62.
Yesterday: Jake Guentzel

To continue reading, log into your account: