Rockets a nice fit for Olsen

18-year-old forward, traded last spring by Memorial Cup hosts, finds a WHL home in Kelowna

Forward Ryan Olsen is second in goal scoring (23) for the Kelowna Rockets this season

Forward Ryan Olsen is second in goal scoring (23) for the Kelowna Rockets this season

Having to leave a team with an automatic berth in the 2013 Memorial Cup wasn’t easy, but Ryan Olsen was determined to keep an open mind about his new destination.

Nine months after his trade from the Saskatoon Blades to the Kelowna Rockets, the 18-year-old forward couldn’t have asked for a much better scenario.

“I was maybe a little disappointed when (the trade) happened, but I also looked at it as a fresh start for me,” said Olsen, part of last May’s deal which saw Shane McColgan sent to Saskatoon. “The way it’s turned out, I couldn’t be happier. This is a great place to play and we’re one of the best teams in the league. The past is behind me, and it’s been a really good move for me.”

In addition to helping his new team catapult its way up the Western Hockey League standings, Olsen is thriving as one of the Rockets’ top offensive threats.

In 44 games, the Tsawwassen native has 23 goals and 42 points—both career highs—with a third of the WHL season still remaining.

Still, as a 6-foot-2, 195-pound centreman with a physical bent to his game, Olsen brings a lot more to the mix than offense.

“Ryan’s size down the middle has been very important for us,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “As a guy who’s good on face offs, and the way he plays in our own zone, he’s harder to play against than a lot guys. On top of that, he also plays the game at a good pace and brings some strong offensive ability with him.”

In Saskatoon last season, Olsen didn’t produce the kinds of numbers he had envisioned—32 points in 67 games—but it didn’t deter the Winnipeg Jets who chose the rangy centre in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Based on his play so far in Kelowna, it would be safe to suggest the Jets still like a lot of what they see.

“Getting drafted gave me some confidence, it made me feel like I had something to work towards,” said Olsen. “When I came here, I found great linemates, found some great chemistry and things just fell into place. I found if I didn’t focus and worry so much about scoring, it would come. It actually ended up coming easier.”

As for the team’s unexpected success in 2012-13—including a magical 19 straight wins at home—Olsen counts himself fortunate to have landed in such an enviable place.

Still, Olsen said the club’s run to the top of the B.C. Division has been anything but an accident.

“We work hard and I’d say this is the fastest team I’ve ever been on,” Olsen said. “We can set the tempo in games, and we can really push the pace at home. Teams don’t like coming in here and no one can expect an easy game. We go into every game knowing we can win, and that’s something I’ve never really been a part of before.”

On the subject of his old team, Olsen he admits he wishes the Saskatoon Blades every bit of success at the 2013 Memorial Cup—that is, unless his Kelowna Rockets also happen to earn a trip to Saskatchewan in May for the CHL championship.

“I know most of the guys on the (Blades) roster, they’re friends of mine, and I keep in touch with them,” said Olsen. “I want them to do well, but honestly it would be a dream come true for us to get to the Memorial Cup…my old team, my old rink, the old fans. It would be unbelievable. We’re going to try and make it happen.”

heRocket Shots…The Rockets look for their 20th consecutive home ice win Thursday night when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 7:05 p.m. face off at Prospera Place…The Rockets and T’Birds will meet again Friday in Kent, Wash…The Rockets (34-10-2-1) trail the Portland Winterhawks by five points for first place overall in the WHL…Rockets goaltender Jordon Cooke has won a team record 18 consecutive games.


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