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This article was published 11/9/2015 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PENTICTON, B.C. — Few would place Ryan Olsen among the Winnipeg Jets’ blue-chip draft picks and prospects that are getting plenty of ink these days.
But the 21-year-old native of Delta., B.C., does qualify as an asset in the overall quality prospects package the Jets are putting on ice for the Canucks Young Stars Classic tournament that starts today at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Olsen, the sixth-round pick of 2012 draft, turned pro last fall with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He described his first couple of months as "rocky."
"I didn’t play too much," Olsen said today. "I learned a lot. Then the last couple of months I started playing a ton. Everyone noticed that; I noticed it, too. I have to keep that up, even take more strides from there."
Asked to specify what was so rocky, the two-way, sturdy sort of centre said this: "It’s just that I wasn’t doing things, living up to my expectations. I was just trying to figure it out. Even my first couple of months in the WHL weren’t the best, either. I was just trying to learn.
"Once I got more comfortable, learned everything and got up to pace, I was fine. Then I played my game and I was effective."
He wound up the season with 60 AHL games played, scoring four goals and nine points.
Olsen said his troubles were not a matter of him forgetting everything he was taught in junior, everything he trained for previously, including two previous Jets training camps and rookie tournaments.
"It’s that playing pro, it’s your job now," he said. "Everyone’s competing every night to make the next jump and everyone’s fighting for spots every night in the lineup. That’s where you learn every day you have to come prepared for every practice, every workout. And it took me a little longer than expected to learn all that.
"But I stuck with it and played as hard as I could."
Part of the early issues were that Olsen, like many junior grads who were used to playing heavy minutes, knew and took most of the shortcuts that would allow them to play those minutes.
Keith McCambridge, Olsen’s coach last season and again for this rookie tournament, is well-versed in spotting players taking shortcuts.
"I wouldn’t disagree with him using the word ‘rocky,’" McCambridge said today. "When Ryan came in, well, as a player at the junior level, a lot of things came easy for him and some parts of his game, the word I use a lot is that details were ‘loose,’ for my liking.
"But you could see deep down he’s a player that wanted to get better, who had a lot of pride. We just had to work on getting him to play the right way and correct those flaws in his game.
"And I should say for me, from the start to the end, he was a real bright spot for me... proud of the kind of player he’s turning into."
Olsen credited McCambridge and his IceCaps coaching staff for showing him the light.
"It did a lot, that year," he said. "I came in not knowing what to expect, really. I had a great coaching staff. For a centreman like me, a bigger guy, a two-way guy, they taught me some of the ins and outs of that."
He has taken the revelations seriously and changed some of his training this summer at Tsawwassen, B.C., near his home.
"I trained with a very good group, with Brendan Gallagher," he said. "He’s a great guy to be around. He’s a certified NHL player and being alongside him was really good. I definitely pushed myself this summer a lot, every day.
"Definitely I got a lot leaner and stronger. That’s what the Jets organization wanted me to do and I’ve brought that to camp here."
To camp and to this tournament, Olsen has also brought healed face.
You may remember the photo that went viral on social media and elsewhere, that bruised and scarred mug shot from last March.
"That was one crazy day, one crazy game," he said. "I got in a fight and my eye was already obviously a little black from that and then the next couple of shifts I get out there and get a puck square in the face and my eye swelled up and I couldn’t see. My eye was swollen shut. It happens. It’s hockey.
"It’s the definition of hockey, I think. That’s what I was trying to get at when I put it out on social media. It was fun couple of days — well, not really."
He certainly heard a lot about it on social media from his friends and family.
"My dad event tweeted at me that he wouldn’t tell my mother," Olsen laughed. "I think he was pretty happy about it but my mom was freaked out about it."
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