When most hockey fans discuss junior hockey, they are usually referring to at least one of the three major junior leagues. The Western Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Ontario Hockey League are the biggest and best junior leagues in North America. To perform well there is to perform well among some of the best under-20 players in the world. However, major junior hockey is not for everyone - particularly those who want to play college hockey in America. In order to maintain NCAA eligibility, players set on college may choose to play in one of the more regional or provincial Junior A leagues. While the level of talent and attention in general is below the major junior level, there are talented prospects plying their trade there and NHL teams pay attention to it despite the lower profile and level. As a result, those who pay attention to Alberta’s junior A league, will know about forward Quinn Olson - and it may be enough for his name to be called in Vancouver later this month.
Who is Quinn Olson?
Quinn Olson is a forward who played for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), a Canadian Junior A league. According to his profile page at Elite Prospects, Olson was born on May 9, 2001; he shoots left; and he is officially listed at 5’11” and 170 pounds. Olson wrapped up his second season with the Oilers and it appears to be his last. On February 18, 2019, it was announced by the University of Minnesota-Duluth that Olson signed a National Letter of Intent such that he will play for the Bulldogs in 2019-20.
Olson was quite productive with the Oilers. In his rookie season, he finished fifth on the team with 59 points: 13 goals and 39 assists in 53 regular season games. He continued on to put up a goal and nine assists in 15 playoff games with Okotoks. Last season, Olson increased his production further. Olson finished second on the team and tied for tenth in the AJHL in points with 66: 20 goals and 46 assists. As you may saw in the 2018-19 league stats, Olson put up a whopping 22 power play assists out of the 46 he had - also a top ten rate. As near as I can tell, Olson finished second in league scoring among 2019 first-year draft eligible players. For whatever reason, Alex Young is unranked. Olson continued the torrid pace of points with five goals and ten assists in 13 playoff games. The numbers are basic but they suggest he set up many of his Oilers’ teammates. I would not be surprised if one of them was 2020-draft eligible, second leading scorer in the league, and CJHL Player of the Year, Dylan Holloway. Still, if you were to tell me that he was truly the proverbial straw that stirred the drink for Okotoks, then I would believe it.
Olson was also quite familiar with the penalty box. He was not on the level of fellow-Oiler and the subject of one of my favorite prospect profiles from last year, Austin Wong. But he did average nearly a penalty minute per game in the 2017-18 season and surpassed that average in the 2018 AJHL playoffs (21 PIM in 15 games) and the 2018-19 season (75 PIM in 54 games). The majority of those calls would be a minor penalty here and a minor penalty there. There were some notable exceptions. In the 2019 playoffs, Olson had an astonishing 54 PIM in 13 playoff games. That number was largely driven by two games: a 2+10 for roughing in Okotoks’ first playoff game against Calgary, and a whopping three misconducts plus a roughing minor in their third playoff game against Calgary. That’s 44 of the 54 right there. Olson is not big but he occasionally would have a moment of madness.
Olson was not expected to go to the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) Top Prospects Game. Similar to the CHL Top Prospects Game, this is an exhibition game featuring the best prospects in the various Junior A leagues. However, Alex Swetlikoff of Vernon (BCHL) signed with Kelowna of the WHL and so the CJHL announced that Olson would replace him. Olson was not just a participant. He put up a goal and an assist for Team West as they prevailed 5-2. One game will not make a difference as to whether a player will be picked, but I would think that good performance on a bigger stage than the usual AJHL game gives scouts and observers a reason to look further into the player. Olson appeared to have done just that.
Where is Quinn Olson Ranked?
Rankings are not everything and plenty can change between now and until the draft. Still, they can provide a general idea as to how a prospect is regarded. In the case of Olson, you...
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North American - 154 (Midterm), 105 (Final)
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: 265 (Preseason 400, August 2018), Not Ranked (Midseason 400, December 2018), 290 (Top 500, April 2019)
- Larry Fisher - The Hockey Writers: Not Ranked (Top 124, October 2018), Not Ranked/Honorable Mention (Top 186, December 2018), 175 (Top 217, February 2019), 207 (Top 300, April 2019), 215 (Top 350, May 2019)
Interestingly, the two very long public rankings by Kournianos and Fisher have not rated Olson well at all. Kournianos dropped him off entirely in December, which is no mean feat since he is ranking 400 players. He returned Olson to the rankings in April - and just inside the top 300. Fisher rated Olson inside his top 200 after the mid-season point, but he dropped his ranking in April and May. Neither think much of what he has done in the AJHL.
Central Scouting Services would likely disagree. They bumped him up 49 spots in the North American skater rankings in their final list. That takes him from a remote possibility of being drafted to a likely possibility that he will be drafted. Their scouts that look at the AJHL and Junior A hockey must have been impressed with what he has done. Of course, these are rankings and they just provide an idea of how well or not a player is regarded.
What Others Say about Quinn Olson
For a short description, Bill Plazcek at Draft Site has this listed for Olson. He also has him projected as a seventh round pick.
Linemate of Dylan Holloway who plays a sound game without the puck;he gets to the open areas, and reacts quickly to the play. He moves well East to West while carrying at top speed. Has a low center of gravity and plays strong on the wall and corners and wins puck battles. Committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
I definitely appreciate the confirmation that he was a linemate with Okotoks’ top scorer, Holloway. These are nice traits. Brief as it is; note that there is not a lot noted about his offense outside of getting open and winning pucks. Nothing about his shot or how well he passes the puck. It is a short description, but it is what I noticed.
Since Olson did play in the CJHL Top Prospects Game, he was highlighted in Steve Kournianos’ review of the event. His goal and assist made him certainly stand out enough. Here is how Kournianos described him at The Draft Analyst:
Olson is a hard-working winger with soft hands and excellent speed to match a high-energy compete level. He is a dual threat with the puck, meaning he can furnish a hard shot and score in a variety of ways, or assume the role of playmaker and set-up quality chances. Committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Olson was a standpoint as a replacement at the CJHL Top Prospects Game, using a quick first step and anticipation to cut off attempted breakouts that turned into instant scoring chances. Olson can be deployed on both the power play and the penalty kill, and his ability to read plays in the neutral zone and guess correctly on puck travel makes him a threat to counter in an odd-man situation. Strong on his skates with impressive leg drive for a player listed under six feet, Olson can deliver big hits and is not the least bit shy at using his physical strength to battle hard in either open ice, in front of the net or in the corners. Plays a game similar to 2018 Vancouver Canucks draftee Tyler Madden.
This is an excellent description of the player. The level of detail makes me think that this is not just a review of what he did in the CJHL Top Prospects game, but what Olson has done at Okotoks. Kournianos is great. As for Olson, I read this and concluded that there is plenty to like here. He played in all situations for the Oilers. He can be physical despite giving up some size. He moves quickly on and off the puck. Kournianos described him as a “dual threat” with the puck; I think he leans towards making plays based on his large total and power play assist counts in this past season.
Tyler Madden is an interesting comparison point. He is also a small forward who went the college route from junior (USHL in Tyler’s case). I think he was regarded as being more skilled and being quite mobile. He went in the third round to Vancouver last year; and Madden went on to have a successful freshman year at Northeastern and represent the United States at the 2019 WJC. I doubt Olson will go as high in the draft as Madden; but it gives a good idea of the kind of game Olson plays.
Over at Dobber Prospects, Steven Ellis wrote about the top prospects coming out of Canadian Junior A leagues back in late February. This was written after most leagues ended their regular seasons and as they started their playoffs. Olson made his post with the following written about him:
The #154th-ranked North American skater was one of the best draft eligible forwards in the CJHL after putting up 65 points in 52 games played with the Okotoks Oilers this year. A top forward with the team, Olson has been a close to or over a point-per-game player at every level of hockey and has typically been a stronger playmaker than goal-scorer. Olson is comfortable carrying the puck down the ice and often gets creative to make a pass or deke past a defender.
Ellis’ description further confirms that Olson fits more of a playmaking role. He also confirms that he has been a successful offensive player and is willing to have some flair in his game. He does not bring up anything about his defense or his play off the puck. Still, parts of what Ellis wrote aligns with what Plazcek and Kournanios have written about Olson. That helps support the observation of what kind of player Olson is and that he has performed well on the puck for Okotoks.
A Little Video
There is no video focusing on Quinn Olson alone. But here are a few videos where he is featured.
First, here are two .GIFs of Olson contributing at the CJHL Top Prospects game. Here is his goal, which is more of a highlight for the stretch pass that was the secondary assist by Luke Bast. Here is his assist, a pass to the slot off the rush for the score. It was a primary assist.
Second, the Brooks Bandits have been consistently putting up highlight videos of their games and their wins. They set a new level of dominance in Junior A hockey by going 57-3 in the regular season with a goal differential of +209. They ended 2018-19 with a 33 game winning streak. They lost just three times on their way to a AJHL Championship and they won the RBC Cup, the national championship in Junior A Hockey. So the Oilers were on the wrong end of the games against Brooks this season - just like everyone else. Still, the videos does show a little of Olson, who wears #11 for the Oilers. Two of are note and they come from the playoff series where Brooks was handed a rare loss.
Here is Olson putting up a two-point night against Brooks. He scored the first of the game and set up a power play goal in the third.
Olson’s goal, which starts at 0:20 into the video, shows him just ripping a wrist shot from the left side past the goalie. It is a strong-looking shot. At 4:31, Olson collected a puck at the right point in a 5-on-3 situation. He patiently moved the puck to his right to Holloway. Holloway then ripped one in far-post from the left circle. It is not much but it shows that he can handle a puck in a situation that calls for calmness. (Aside: No need to rush on a 5-on-3; you have two extra men, after all.)
Here is Olson putting up another goal and an assist in a wild third period comeback against Brooks in Game 4 of their playoff series.
The goal, which the play starts at 5:31, put the Oilers within one with minutes left in regulation. It was a goal that the goalie really should have stopped. It was from outside of the far faceoff circle. Maybe it was deflected by a defender? The assist tied up the game at 5-5 for force OT, where Brooks prevailed. Unfortunately, Olson’s pass is not included for the goal; just the primary assist and the shot.
There is not a lot of video but the little clips show him firing passes or shots as they needed to be in their respective situations. I wish there were more videos of even his other points; such as the four-goal night he had against Calgary on December 9, 2018 or his four-assist game against Bonnyville from October 20, 2018. At least Brooks’ staff is on point with their game highlight videos.
An Opinion of Sorts
In the last two weeks, I profiled players where my general conclusion is that it would be OK if they were picked late in the draft, but I would be fine if the Devils went in a different direction. I am somewhat hopeful that Olson is in that different direction. He is the kind of player I think the Devils should seek out late in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While information about him is somewhat limited, the few observations out there note that he is quick, he has an offensive game, and he has the production to back it up. He is going to go to a strong hockey program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and I think it is impressive that he will start next season. I do not think racking up a significant number of points for Okotoks for a third season will really help him out. Going to UMD, working to earn a roster spot, and competing in an older, tougher environment will challenge him to grow as a player.
There are some flaws to iron out along the way. He cannot flip out and just take a rash of penalties. That will not fly in the NCAA or beyond. He will need to keep working to improve his game to earn more respect. That he is not rated higher makes me wonder how observers view his upside. Can he do what he did with Okotoks in the future? Can he learn to do so, or make adjustments as needed to continue to contribute? How will he handle the next level? This is true for all prospects, but the answers help make the difference between who gets picked in the third or fourth round and who gets picked in the seventh or at all.
I would not bet against Olson putting in the work to make it happen. It is not lost on me that he put up a whole bunch of points as a 16-year old, he continued to produce as a 17-year old last season, and he only made it to the CJHL Top Prospects Game because someone else was hurt. Despite not being initially considered, he made his mark on the game. While more people may have been looking at his linemate, Holloway, Olson surely attracted plenty of eyes on his own. I may be reaching here but I would not be surprised if he has the right kind of a chip on his shoulder. It may be the sort of thing that helps him push his game further, which could be the basis for a career in pro hockey. I prefer that the Devils take a chance on a player like this in the final couple rounds. I think he may fit the mold. Should he hit the ground running with UMD, the likelihood will increase that he could be another late draft success story for the Devils.
I think the Devils should seek out Olson (or a player like him) in the sixth or seventh round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Now I turn to you. What do you think of what you have learned about Quinn Olson? Are you impressed with what he did in his second season with Okotoks? Are you encouraged by what was written about him? Do you think he will excel with Minnesota-Duluth next season? Do you want the Devils to draft him and, if so, when? If you have seen Olson play, what did you think of his performance(s)? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Quinn Olson in the comments. Thank you for reading.