Devils at the 2009 NHL Draft: A Dylan Olsen Overview

I'm going a bit off-board, but you know what, the Devils sometimes do that.  For example, in 2001, they caused a delay in the NHL Draft because Adrian Foster wasn't in their system and to confirm that he was, indeed, a player.  If Conte feels a player has the talent that could help the Devils down the road; then throw out your mock drafts and such, the Devils will take him regardless.

Now, remember how I took a look at Conte's draft history since 1994 a few days ago?  Check out that chart on the leagues he drafted from: the Devils have taken quite a few players from Canadian Junior-A leagues like the AJHL and the BCHL.  Even more than the WHL, a major junior league in Canada. The most current success story is Travis Zajac, who was selected right out of Salmon Arm of the BCHL in the first round back in 2004.  I figured, who was the best Junior-A player available, and it turns out that defenseman Dylan Olsen of the Camrose Kodiacs is the man.

Dylan Olsen - Defenseman - 6'2" - 195 lbs. - Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
2008-09 Team: Camrose Kodiacs -  53 GP - 10 G - 19 A - 29 PTS - 123 PIM (source)

While his numbers won't wow you, it's important to note that he's quite talented.  For example, he was the only Junior A player on Canada's U-18 roster at the 2009 U-18 World Championships.  According to the stats at the IIHF website, it seems to me he took the opportunity and ran with it with a very strong performance.  2 goals, 2 assists, 14 PIM, and 23 shots on goal, the most among all Canadian defensemen at the tournament and second most on the entire team.   Since he wanted to take the college route, Olsen has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for next year.  Makes me think you'll see plenty about him at Western College Hockey Blog in the future.

Let's learn a little more about what's out there about Olsen.

Admittedly, there isn't as much out there for Olsen as there is for Kyle Palmieri and Calvin de Haan.  But what's there is certainly worth your interest.  For starters, Hockey's Future's Guy Flaming wrote a feature on Olsen back in November 2008 - before his performance at the U18s.  In fact, it was in advance of the World Junior A Tournament, where Olsen represented Team Canada West.  This section of the feature gives insight as to what Olsen can do on the ice:

Olsen has 9 points in 19 games with Camrose, but is known as much for his defensive play as he is for impacting the score sheet. Coming in a 6'2 and 207 lbs, it is a common sight in Camrose to see opposing forwards on their butt with Olsen towering above them.

"Oh yeah, definitely... I love to make the big hits," he smiled before adding that he brings more to the table than simple physical play. "I'm kind of an offensive defenseman. I like to rush the puck and get into the play but in the defensive zone I like to be strong, take my man one-on-one, make the first pass out of the zone and make plays, get shots on net and score some goals."

It sounds that he likes to get forward, and thinks of himself as an offensive defenseman.  Still, given the set up of the question, I can't help but think that he could be more of a two-way defenseman.    At 6'2", 195 lbs., he definitely could throw some pain-bombs on opposing forwards. 

When the University of Minnesota-Duluth announced that they added Olsen along with 4 other recruits for next year's team, the school's website had this to say about Olsen:

Dylan Olsen (6-2, 200, Defense) -- Seldom was his name mentioned in the Alberta Junior Hockey League circles without the word "impact" in the same sentence

was also one of nine finalists for the Royal Bank Cup Canadian Junior Hockey Player of the Year Award in 2008-09 ... served as a Camrose team captain last season ... laced up his skates for the South Division at the 2009 AJHL All-Star Game, for Canada West at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge, and for Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship (he was the only Junior A player on the Canadian roster)

Impact is a word that definitely is something you'd want to hear about in a prospect. Unless it comes after the phrase, "isn't likely to make a."   Anyway, I didn't know he was up to be named Player of the Year in his division, so that's certainly heartening.  As is seeing he was an All Star in addition to his international work.  Basically, Olsen was very good in Camrose.

However, Olsen doesn't seem to be a lock for the first round.  I haven't seen his name appear at any of the mock drafts at NHL.com, and Central Scouting Services has him ranked 27th among North American skaters (in fact, he fell from 23 at the midterm. Were others around that spot more impressive since then?).  Considering there's bound to be more than a few Europeans to be selected and maybe a goalie or two drafted, this would place Olsen out of the first round.  That said, some feel he could sneak in at the end of the first round.

According to Ryan Kennedy's Hot List from June 16, he lists Olsen as a player he/the Hockey News is excited to see in the NHL one day with this interesting blurb:

5. Dylan Olsen, D – Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL): The highest-rated Jr. A player in the draft pool, Olsen’s buzz has been gaining steam for quite some time now. At nearly 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, Olsen has size, toughness and some offensive flair. The first round is a definite possibility. Draft eligible in 2009.

I would have to think the buzz is coming from his performance for Canada at the 2009 World U-18 tournament.  Similar positive feelings is coming from the Western College Hockey Blog itself, who had a profile on Olsen a few days ago.  Back in April, WHCblog came from the U-18 tournament as a huge Olsen fan, and goes as far as to think that he could very well be the WCHA rookie of the year in 2010!   As far as what kind of player he'll turn out to be:

Final Projection

Olsen may be a bit of a sleeper in this draft, having played in the AJHL, but his performance at the World U18 Championships had to have impressed scouts. His combination of size and skill will probably get him drafted into the 20-30 range in the first round, and after a year or two in Duluth, he should be ready to contribute at the next level. Olsen's toughness and skill will allow him to play in all situations, meaning he will someday be logging a lot of icetime for whichever team drafts him.

NHL Draft Notes is a blog written by Michael Remmerde, a scout and contributing editor for the Red Line Report, which focuses on the prospects in Western Canada, which includes the AJHL.  Here is Remmerde's take on Olsen:

Strengths: Excellent strength and great improvement in physical presence this season. Good hands and a big shot from the point.

Weaknesses: Still a bit raw and will need development time. First step quickness and speed could be better.

One of the most improved players this season. Has a fair amount of two-way upside. Solid in own end, uses the body effectively. Good upper body strength. Decisive with the puck and has a good passing touch from his own end. More of a puck mover than rusher. Forward stride looks a little odd to me, but overall mobility is a plus. Has some PP upside - has a heavy, hard shot but needs to use it more.

From my point of view, one of the weaknesses isn't really an issue. The Devils are generally very patient with their prospects, only pushing them to the next level when they feel the player is prepared do so.  For example, look at Zach Parise. Some teams would have had him playing right out of the draft, but the Devils let him gain more seasoning and allow him to work on his game for another year at North Dakota before signing a contract.  The Devils would certainly let him develop at UMD as long as necessary - even longer than the 1-2 years predicted at WCHB.

The second one, well, it's a weakness - speed.  I wonder how it can be addressed.  Nevertheless, the take from Remmerde is solid on Olsen and thinks he can be a first round draft pick, definitely near the end.   From what I get from all this, the issue with his speed, plus the fact he was playing only Junior A hockey, leads to questions as what his celing could be.  I don't believe I saw a comparison of him to another player in doing this overview; so if you have somewhere, that would be great in figuring that out.     I also get the impression that he's not an offensive defenseman, but more of a two-way defender who can/will use his body to make plays.  Definitely a solid quality to have since most defenders in the NHL need to be able to play with a physical edge of some sort.

Lastly, from what I gather, you have to be more than just somewhat skilled to make it to Canada's U-18 team and projected into the first round as well.  That he did so well at the U-18s, against the best players in the world for his age bracket, is very telling.  That said, I'm not sure he would necessarily be the best defenseman available considering that Calvin de Haan, David Rundblad, Ryan Button, or Tim Erixon could be there.  While I haven't seen any of these players play, I would want those players to at least be considered first.    Nevertheless, as I said at the beginning, the Devils historically had no issue drafting a player right from a Junior A league, and given what is out there, he could very well end up as a smart pick at 23rd overall. 

In any case, it's time to have your say.  Would you have a problem with Dylan Olsen being selected in the first round at 23rd overall?  Would you like the possibility if the Devils traded down a few spots?  Do you think it's a little odd that there isn't nearly as much written about Olsen, or could it be the result of being in the AJHL?   Leave all comments relevant to Dylan Olsen in this post.

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