Last July, Tate Olson wasn’t on the ice showcasing his skills in front of an NHL team. He was too young to have been drafted, so instead he went to work thrashing old houses for a demolition company – and he loved it…
“Worst job I have ever had,” laughed Olson. “Taking down and gutting old buildings. It was brutal. It was really grueling work; just the worst.”
This summer Olson has traded his sledgehammer for a hockey stick as he is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks after being selected in the seventh round, 210th overall at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Olson, who posted 24 points (5-19-24) in 68 games with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars last season, scouts himself as a big, rangy defenceman that can skate, move the puck, and sees the ice well.
His coach in Prince George, Mark Holick, agreed and even took it one step further, calling Olson a player that elevates his game in big situations.
“He was a top four guy for us last season,” said Holick. “He played in every situation. He played on the second unit power play. When we had really big games, he really stepped up and was real accountable in those games. I thought he was one of our best defenceman in the playoffs, if not our best.
“I am looking for a big year from him next season. I think he is more offensive than people give him credit for. He skates well. His lack of size early on has maybe held him back in some people’s eyes, but he has a big frame and once he fills that out he will be a good sized mobile defenceman that can play at both ends of the rink.”
By not actually watching him play and by going off his 6-foot-3 frame and his modest 24 points, one would think Olson was your prototypical stay-at-home WHL defenceman. A throwback type player, one might say. But as Holick said, there is more to his game than that. He can skate. He can move the puck. And this coming season he expects to take it to the next level.
“I was a second pairing guy last year,” said Olson. “Was a puck-moving defenceman, second power play kind of role. I think I can add to my offensive numbers by shooting a lot more. I think we’re going to be a good team next year and with a bigger role my numbers will be better this year.
“I hope to get on the first unit power play and I expect to have a lot more confidence this year as an older guy.”
Olson, whose father is a teacher and mother is a wine rep, will also look at improving his game in the defensive zone this season, which will make him a true, mobile two-way defender.
Is he a project? Absolutely. Any late round pick is. Could he end up being a pleasant surprise? Absolutely. He has the size, tools and opportunity to do it.
“He is a guy that had a good enough year to be drafted,” said Holick. “I thought maybe he would go a few rounds earlier, but I know talking to some of the Vancouver scouts I talked to during the season that they had some interest and I was happy they took him.
“They got a real good player where they got him and I think he is going to surprise a lot of people.”