2008-09: Oliver Gabriel skated in 50 games for Portland as a 17-year-old in his first WHL season. He scored 6 goals with 5 assists and 32 PMs and was a -8 plus/minus on a Winterhawks team that had the league's second-worst record. His older brother Scott was an overage defenseman for Portland.
2009-10: Gabriel appeared in 41 games in his second season with Portland, missing much of the season after suffering a ruptured spleen. He scored 10 goals with 14 assists and was +15 with 28 PMs. The Winterhawks were one of the big turnaround stories in the WHL, winning 44 games and advancing to the second round in the playoffs. Gabriel, after returning late in the season, played all 13 playoff games and scored 2 goals with 4 assists and was +2 with 9 PMs.
2010-11: Gabriel, after not being selected in the 2010 NHL Draft, was invited to the Blue Jackets prospect camp as a free agent and also played for Columbus' entry in the Traverse City Tournament. He had an impressive training camp with the Blue Jackets and was signed to a three-year entry-level contract in October 2010. He went back to Portland for a third year of junior hockey following the Blue Jackets camp and got off to a fast start with the Winterhawks, playing alongside fellow Columbus prospect Ryan Johansen, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-January. Gabriel finished with 11 goals and 21 assists and was +6 with 36 PMs in 41 games for Portland.
2011-12: Gabriel got his first glimpse of professional hockey last season when he played in 11 contests with the Springfield Falcons. He scored one goal and had a -5 rating. He returned to the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks where he notched 42 points (20 goals and 22 assists) and served 32 penalty minutes. The Winterhawks finished in second place of the U.S. Division and when the playoffs came around, the winger scored nine points (6 goals and three assists) and had a five plus/minus. During the regular season he posted a +15 rating.
2012-13: Gabriel's first pro season got off to a tough start. Sent to the ECHL's Evansville Icemen after Columbus AHL affiliate Springfield's camp, he suffered a leg laceration in his second game and was out for most of the season. He returned to the Evansville lineup in February and finished the year in the ECHL. In 20 games he scored 5 goals with 5 assists and had an even plus/minus. The Icemen finished last in the North Division with the ECHL's second-worst record.
Gabriel is a hard-nosed, defensive-minded forward. He has the ability to put home a few goals and set up a couple more, but the reason he is on the ice is his gritty style. He plays well on the penalty kill and isn’t afraid to do the dirty work in front of the net.
The ACL injury really set Gabriel back. The missed ice time in the ECHL could have benefited the two-way forward’s development. Next season he will have a chance to make Springfield’s roster, but if he does not make the cut Gabriel will be back in Evansville. The most important thing for Gabriel is, wherever he is, that he plays a full season.