This is the toughest time of the year for hockey fans. The dead zone that stretches from mid-July to when camps start.
Starved for news and hockey talk, I found myself thinking back about some former-Panthers that, for one reason or another, just didn't pan out.
Dylan Olsen was a guy that came to my mind. I was a fan of him and really hoped he would work out.
[Image from The Sun Sentinel]
Olsen was taken 28th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL Draft. It would be a tough climb for the young defenseman to crack that Hawks blueline - as it was really in it's infant stages and growing into the monster it would become be for the next few years.
In the 2011-12 season, after recording one point in 28 games with the Chiago, Olsen was sent back down to the Rockford Icehogs (the Hawks AHL affiliate). He remained there until the 2013-14 season, when he was traded to the Florida Panthers, along with Jimmy Hayes (another guy I had high hopes for), where he played 44 games to finish the season.
He played another 44 games in 2014-15, before being sent down to the San Antonio Rampage.
His up-and-down tendencies continued into the 2015-16, where he started with the Panthers, but was then sent down to the Portland Pirates after only 8 games. He would finish his season in Portland.
Perhaps the biggest blow would come in 2017-18, when he was demoted to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL - playing 50 games for them.
Eventually, he fought his way back up to the AHL in 2017-18, where he played 7 games with the Binghamton Devils.
Where Is He Now?
Thinking he was still in North America, I was surprised to see that he actually played the 2018-19 season for the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) that's headquartered in London. Check out that awesome logo:.
[Photo from Nottingham Panthers Twitter account]
It seems like he found some success with Nottingham, earning 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 46 games and a highlight video complete with some of his sweetest goals in the EIHL. Wish i had that shot from the point!
As of earlier this month, Olsen signed a deal in Slovakia with the HK Nitra of the Slovak Tipsport Liga.
As you can see, at only 28, Olsen has bounced around a number of leagues in his time. In that span, he managed to get 124 NHL games under his belt:
CHI - 28
FLA - 96
His stint in the show saw him score 5 goals, earn 17 assists, tally 36 PIM and have a -16 rating.
So What Exactly Happened?
With a 6'2", 223 lb frame, combined with speed and a defensive-minded approach, Dylan seemed to have all the things you'd want in a blueliner. In fact, back in 2014, Litter Box Cats published an article that examined Olsen's playing style and then-pending RFA status.
Olsen is considered more of a defensive-minded defenseman, who uses his speed to stay in position and his size and strength to ride opponents off the puck. Generally, he is solid at doing this, though, in order to more fully reach the level of play needed to be effective at the NHL, he's had to do work to improve his foot work, coordination, and mental game. This season with the Cats, Olsen showed that he definitely has the tools to play at the NHL level when he burst on the scene in the month of December, playing in 14 games, and posting 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points, with a plus/minus of 4, while averaging 16:41 TOI per game. The Panthers went 8-3-3 during that stretch, as the surprise offensive punch that Olsen packed carried the team to several key victories. Unfortunately, Olsen went down for the majority of the month of January with the dreaded lower-body injury, and returned for four games before he was sent down to San Antonio during the Olympic break to keep gaining experience by playing and to further return from the injury. After returning from the Rampage, Olsen fit more into the defensive role expected of him, and was less offensively explosive as before. He still provided a consistent presence on the back end, and was capable of shutting down forwards when needed. Thee defender finished the year with 44 NHL games played, 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, 8 PIM, 55 shot blocks, 116 hits, and a plus/minus of -3 while averaging 15:26 TOI a game. Going off of the scouting report, Olsen was a very solid top-six defenseman for the Panthers, and showed the offensive upside earlier in his season that could make him an effective top-four type defenseman for the Panthers in the future."
Unfortunately, it never panned out for Olsen longterm at the NHL level. Oddly enough, however, his path is more common than the one of those who get their shot and end up staying.
But there's a slightly sad angle to Dylan's story.
In 2015, the Sun Sentinel posted an article that detailed the struggles the defenseman was having that led to an increase in turnovers and rapid decline in play.
While it's not uncommon for young players to have confidence issues and need help on the mental side of the game, it appears that Olsen, in his pursuit of perfection, put a lot of pressure on himself. As a result, he ended up getting way too into his own head and the anxiety became too much - resulting in him needing to take time away from the team and game.
At the time of the article, Olsen said:
"I'll admit on the mental side I kind of got into my own head a little bit. I've learned over the summer to let things go and move on to the next shift. It's not eating away at me anymore. I'm excited about that."
The article further explains the lengths Olsen went through to strengthen his mental game, like talking with the team therapist and then-captain Willie Mitchell.
While it didn't work out for Olsen in Florida/North America (never say never), I'm happy to see he's still playing and I hope he's enjoying every minute of it.
Whether it's the NHL, Euro league, mens league, your job or life...confidence and belief in oneself is so vital.