Brett's matured this year in his second year. He's gone so far in his career … His versatility and his leadership - some of his experiences after four years of college have played huge dividends for him. - Troy G. Ward on Brett Olson
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- Brett Olson doesn't mind taking the sidewinding way up the mountain, as long as he gets to the top.
His hockey career thus far has been defined by the long, gravel road as opposed to the paved highway. It's what has made Olson who he is today, both on and off the ice. His humble persona is a byproduct of the path he's taken to get to where he is.
Seven years of junior and college hockey brought the Superior, Wisconsin native into the pro ranks at a much later age than many other rookie pros. Yet, all that time was spent developing, growing and improving his game.
As a utility man (or a Swiss Army knife if you will), Olson's style of play makes him arguably the most versatile player on Heat head coach Troy G. Ward's roster.
"That's something that I've had to learn and grow as a role throughout my whole career," said Olson. "Starting in junior all the way up to this point. It's something that's gotten me to where I'm at now … To be the utility player is kind of a pride thing too. They ask a lot of you and you try and get that done. Having that ability is nice when you can do it. At the same time, just knowing that they trust you to do it is good to have in your back pocket."
According to Ward, having a player like Olson on the roster makes the coaches' job that much easier.
"It's really advantageous. I can't even begin to tell you," Ward told CalgaryFlames.com.
"I can only share a story with you. When I was in Pittsburgh we had a kid named Ian Moran. He played at Boston College then came to the Penguins kind of more as a defenceman. We played him as forward too. He played both. He was a shot-blocking D, he was a penalty killing forward, he could play anything basically, very similar to Brett. He was a huge asset. The amount of miles we got out of that kid even in the NHL was unbelievable.
"I feel the same way about Brett. Brett's matured this year in his second year. He's gone so far in his career … His versatility and his leadership - some of his experiences after four years of college have played huge dividends for him."
The undrafted 27-year-old centreman spent three years with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, including an over age season. He then went on to play four seasons with the Michigan Tech Huskies where he served his junior and senior years as team captain. Unfortunately, his junior campaign was cut short due to a nasty knee injury.
In 56 games with the Heat this season, Olson has amassed 34 points and sits second on the team with a plus/minus rating of plus-nine. He currently has six points in his last six games.
"There's so many off-ice things that he's endured in his life," explained Ward. "An injury in college where he had to have knee surgery and he was out - these are all setbacks that have helped his maturity and have helped him get a good refreshing perspective on where guys are at here and the patience it takes. Getting here took a long slow route. It wasn't like he played three or four years of major junior and turned pro. He's been through the wars and that's really helped him here."
The next goal on Olson's list? A two-way NHL contract. According to Ward, he's earned the right to, at the very least, be considered for an NHL deal.
"He's definitely earned the right to be in the conversation. If a guy puts up good points and works the penalty kill, works the power play and can play a regular shift anywhere from one through 12 forward, you've got to look at him.
"If you said most American league guys are on American league deals and are doing what they have done, and they've been contributing the way they've been contributing, I would say that he's probably top-10 in the league."
That's enormous praise from his head coach, but Olson isn't one to put the cart before the horse.
"That's one of things for me and my career is that I've been kind of clawing my way up, not sitting back quietly, and I just worry about the things that I can control," Olson explained.
"In that case, that's one of those things that I can't control right away and to earn a two-way contract would be nice. It's definitely some motivation. Obviously, that's everybody's goal at this point is to try and make it to the NHL and this is a good place to start. It's something that you do keep in the back of your mind, but you can't worry about it too much. You just have to go out and play the game the way it's meant to be played and do what got you there."