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Olsen brings physical play along with offensive skill

Wednesday, 06.24.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I was a fan of Scott Stevens. He played a physical game and he was a great leader. I've been watching Dion Phaneuf because I've been told I play a lot like him. I watch him to pick up a few things that can help my game."
-- Dylan Olsen

It's not true that little children run in fear from Dylan Olsen -- he likes kids -- but hockey players his own age would be well advised to do so.

You know how they say a "Gordie Howe hat trick" is a goal, an assist and a fight? How about the game Olsen had against the Russians last November in the World Junior 'A' Challenge in Camrose, Alta.? After being upset by Belarus in a shootout in its first game in the tournament, Olsen's Canada West team smoked the Russians, 5-2.

Olsen had a power-play goal, an assist, a penalty for checking to the head that brought an automatic 10-minute misconduct, and a roughing penalty. To cop an old Rodney Dangerfield joke, then he went looking for the rest of their families.

Olsen has been compared to Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, a player he admires. Another hero is former New Jersey Devils captain and Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens, another big hitter.

"I'm a big, physical defenseman with offensive capabilities," Olsen said. "I like to join in the rush. I like the physical part of the game. The fighting wasn't there because my coach told me not to fight.

"I was a fan of Scott Stevens. He played a physical game and he was a great leader. I've been watching Dion Phaneuf because I've been told I play a lot like him. I watch him to pick up a few things that can help my game."

Playing with the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Olsen had 10 goals, 29 points and 123 penalty minutes in 53 games. He is the only Junior A player invited to Canada's National Junior Team development camp -- from which the majority of 2010 World Junior Championship team will be selected -- and he was the only Junior A player to skate for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo, N.D.

Olsen is the No. 27-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings -- and in news that also made his family happy, he earned a four-year scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he's expected to take a spot on the team's blue line this fall.

"He's a crisp passer and a good power-play point man," said E.J. McGuire, director of Central Scouting. "He keeps his emotions in check. We'll watch him for a year or two at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He's a mobile defenseman, and very mobile for the big size at 6-2-plus that he carries."

Olsen is happy to be heading off to college this fall.

"Minnesota-Duluth has been after me for a long time, they're losing a couple of defensemen this year," Olsen said. "I can come in as a freshman, expect to get a lot of playing time and be one of the top defensemen. I can't argue with that. And I got a four-year scholarship.

"I committed to four years, but depending on where I go in the draft, it could be one year or two years. Either way, it's always something good to have.

"I will definitely finish my education, but if my NHL club thinks I'm ready, and I think I'm ready, I'll make the jump. Later in life, if something goes wrong, I'll always have school to fall back on."

Olsen did OK in the fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine last month, but there was a pretty good reason. Junior A seasons are shorter and less time is spent in the training room. Olsen's season ended March 18, when the Brooks Bandits eliminated his Kodiaks in seven games in the second round of the AJHL playoffs. He hadn't played in almost a month when he competed in the Under-18s, but had 2 goals, 4 points and 14 penalty minutes in six games as Canada finished fourth.

Playing at the highest level of his life, Olsen scored the game's opening goal in the bronze-medal game against Finland, but he was on the ice for two Finland goals in the 5-4 shootout loss.

"We came in a few weeks early and got to know one another as a team, did some team bonding," Olsen said. "Two exhibitions went well and then we headed up to Fargo for the round-robin. We went 4-0 and thought we had a really good team. The big game was against the Americans and it was a solid game for both teams. We ran into a little penalty trouble in the third period and they capitalized. That was the end of that.

"We knew after that that there was still a medal on the line and a bronze medal is better than no medal. We had a good game against the Finns. We played them before and knew what they were capable of doing. We tried to dominate their best players and got up again before we ran into penalty trouble again. They capitalized and it went into overtime. Both teams had great chances to score and then they capitalized in the shootout. It was disappointing but it was a great experience and I learned from it."

Olsen won three championships in peewee hockey and helped the Kodiaks win the 2008 Doyle Cup, the AJHL championship, on a team led by Joe Colborne, a 2008 first-round pick by the Boston Bruins.

"Coming in at a young age, I looked at Joe as someone who played in this league at 16 and I started at 16, so he was someone that I looked up to," Olsen said. "When I had questions, I asked him because he had the answers. It opened my eyes to what's in front of me.

"Before coming to the Combine, I talked to Joe and he told me what to expect. He told me I was going to have a lot thrown at me. It's 48 hours, it's a lot, so be yourself, be calm and be honest."