Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Olsen's breakout beefs up organization's depth at centre

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REAL-DEAL steal or just another draft pick that blended into the woodwork?

It's still too early to tell but after the year Ryan Olsen just completed with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets, the Winnipeg Jets would like to feel this kind of enthusiasm with every sixth-round pick.

Olsen, the 19-year-old product of Tsawwassen, B.C., scored 32 goals and 56 points during the 2012-13 regular season, more than doubling his goals total of 15 from the prior year and causing a few tongues to wag at Winnipeg's NHL headquarters.

And given that the Jets don't consider themselves terribly deep at centre, the 6-2 pivot's progress is being monitored closely, including at this week's summer development camp at the MTS Iceplex.

'Going later in the draft, it was an opportunity to turn some heads. I think they were really happy with my progress. And it only gets better from there'

-- Ryan Olsen

"Going later in the draft, it was an opportunity to turn some heads," Olsen said Thursday when asked about his 2012-13. "I think they were really happy with my progress. And it only gets better from there."

Olsen formed a big grin when asked if he embraced the underdog's role.

"Exactly," he said. "That's how I took it. I wanted to be an earlier pick but you can't always have that."

In fact, after the 15-goal season he had with the Saskatoon Blades, being drafted at all was just fine with him.

"For me, yeah, I was really happy because I didn't have the best year before that," Olsen said. "To get drafted, it was kind of a surprise for me, so it put a lot of confidence in me and I worked really hard in the off-season to have the season I had."

He said the trade that took him to Kelowna for his third WHL season was also just the spark he needed. He finished second on the Rockets in goals, and led with 15 power-play tallies.

"It was a change of scenery for me, going to Kelowna," he said. "I played with some pretty good players and I had a lot of confidence going in there, (plus) getting drafted to the NHL.

"It was a new team, new environment; it was great for me."

That sense of belonging to an NHL organization -- including knowing Jets scouts or management types would be watching most nights -- just does something for his psyche, he said.

"You want to know (they're there) but you want to work on being a consistent player," Olsen said. "Whoever's in the stands, you do your best every time but it's always nice to have that little boost in you. I want to try to work on my game, be consistent every game."

And while just about everyone is being cautioned this week not to read too much into what is seen on the Iceplex ice, Olsen said the competitive nature of the players always leads to something.

"You see the (Mark) Scheifeles out there, you want to compare to them," he said. "They're good players and you want to look to them."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 C4

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