As the draft progresses into it’s middle rounds, the Devils will be looking to find players with a chance to be a diamond in the rough. WHL forward Kyle Olson is a bit undersized, but has a big motor and some reported playmaking ability. Could he be someone the Devils look at in the later rounds?
Who is Kyle Olson?
Kyle Olson is an 18-year old forward currently with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Olson was selected by Tri-City in the 2014 Bantam Draft and has spent the past two seasons in the WHL with the Americans, with a limited stint of 19 games in 2015-16 followed by his first full season in the league in 2016-17. Olson was born March 22, 1999, putting him roughly in the middle of first-year draft-eligible players, age-wise. In terms of size, Olson is definitely a bit on the small side, with the Tri-City team website listing him at 5’-10” and just 150 pounds (some other sources have him at 160 pounds). After an injury shortened 2015-16, Olson stepped into a full-time role on the Americans this past season and had some success, finishing up with 57 points in 72 games. Below are Olson’s stats via Elite Prospects:
Olson’s draft season was a solid one for the Americans, as he finished up second on the team in points among players in their first year of draft eligibility. Olson has split time between the wing and center positions for Tri-City, but finished up 2016-17 playing mostly center after thriving in the role following an injury to Michael Rasmussen (a potential 2017 top-ten pick). Olson reportedly plays the proverbial “200-foot game” and strives to make an impact at both ends of the ice. His size likely places some limits on his ability in some areas of the ice, but he seems to overcome it fairly well. His numbers don’t necessarily blow you away, but if he can gain some size it seems like he has the willingness and effort to make a larger impact going forward. He was good enough to take part in the U-18 tourney for Team Canada this year, putting up 3 points in 5 games, but in general it’s tough to gauge exactly how high his ceiling is. Overall, it seems he has some skill, but is seen as having value in his two-way ability and high-energy game.
In the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings, Olson finished up at #56 among North American skaters, putting him in a position where he projects to go somewhere in the vicinity of the third or fourth round. Elsewhere in the rankings, Olson is low enough that he won’t show up at the top of many public lists, but he is ranked #100 by Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst, which puts him in a similar, if slightly lower, range to central scouting. With the Devils having four picks in the third and fourth rounds, Olson is certainly a player they could end up considering.
What Others Say About Kyle Olson
First, we’ll take a look at at a profile on Olson provided by Marshall Mackinder at HockeyNow. He touches on Olson’s main weakness right now, his size, but also gets into how he is able to overcome it. This passage in particular offers some insight into his playing style:
A real patient player with the puck on his stick. Intelligent playmaker who waits for defence to make a move first, then can adjust on the spot and make a play out of nothing. Spark plug goes hard to the net and is not afraid to go to the greasy areas to get a goal or to create a scoring opportunity.
It’s clear based on this profile that Olson doesn’t allow his size to limit where he is willing to go on the ice. In addition to that effort though, the patience and vision are definitely positive qualities. If he did nothing but crash the net as a small player, that probably wouldn’t be an effective use of his skill, but with that element of playmaking included in there, it seems that he is picking his spots and making smart plays, which is encouraging for any prospect.
Additionally, we can look a little bit at what Olson feels about his play partially in his own words in this interview/profile put together by Brandon Rivers of WHL site DubNation.ca.
The 1999-born native of Calgary, Alberta has moved from playing wing with Morgan Geekie, to playing centre and he has blossomed into a better player because of it.
His play at both ends has been a key reason Tri-City coach Mike Williamson has to feel like he can trust him in the middle.
“Yeah I try to be a good two-way player the best I can and I try to play any role. I have played both positions: centre and wing before so I feel like wherever the coach needs me, that’s where I will play and try to do a good job there.”
Getting the opportunity to play a role where he is more defensively responsible has allowed him to work on just that.
As for what Olson feels he needs to improve upon in his own game, adding some much-needed strength to his five-foot-ten-inch, 150-pound frame is at the top of the list.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that I have to get stronger. I will be working really hard in the off-season to get stronger so I can be stronger on the ice and put on a few pounds and use that edge.”
More of Olson’s feelings on his season and development are included there, but his focus as a player has clearly been to be become a two-way player over the 2016-17 campaign and it’s encouraging to see that he has succeeded in making some of those strides and seized on an opportunity like Rasmussen’s injury. He is also aware of his need to get a bit bigger to become more effective in his game. You don’t wan’t to read too much into one interview, but he certainly seems like a player who is willing to play whatever role is given to him and is aware of his shortcomings and is committed to improving them.
A Little Video
Unfortunately, there really isn’t too much available out there in terms of video for Kyle Olson right now, but he had a couple goals for Team Canada which you can find in highlights packages for their games against Slovakia and Switzerland.
An Opinion of Sorts
Olson seems to be a solid two-way forward for the Americans, based on the information available on him. He does lack size to an extent, but he seems to be able to deal with it well and has enough skill and work ethic to have a respectable offensive output in spite of it. If he is able to put on some size, he seems like a decent prospect to use a mid-to-late round pick on. I don’t know if anything jumps out enough for me to say the Devils should take him as high as the third round, but if he’s there in the fourth or later, it seems that you could certainly do worse with a pick.
What do you think of what you’ve seen on Kyle Olson. Does his lack of size concern you? Does his reported willingness to attack the net and get involved in board battles in spite of it mitigate that issue for you? Do you like that he is striving to develop his two-way game in the WHL? Do you think he is a player worth using a third or fourth round pick on? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.