An unknown coming into this past season, 2015 7th round pick Tate Olson checks in as the 9th best prospect in our consensus rankings for the Canucks just a short year late.
Slipping under the radar for the first part of the season, TSN’s Craig Button had Tate Olson as the 4th best prospect in the organization in February. This raised some eyebrows amongst Canucks faithful but under further evaluation, it’s clear what Button sees in the Prince George defenceman.
Now the question is, how was Olson still available with the 210th overall pick?
Let’s start with the scouting reporting from Curtis Joe at Elite Prospects:
A solid yet competitive defenseman that elevates his level of play at the game’s key moments. Plays safe and always makes the high-percentage play. Never takes himself out of the unfolding play and gets involved in all areas of the ice. Strong physically and asserts himself through winning board battles. Excellent transition game and makes seeing eye passes look easy. His composed demeanor lets him overlook some dumb penalties that would be very easy to take; that being said, he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself or teammates. All-in-all, a determined, hard-working defenseman that makes all of the right decisions in helping his team win.
Here is a good video package that highlights some of his goals, assists and hits throughout last season:
The rangy defenceman measures in at 6’2″ and 185 lbs, using that size effectively in all three zones. Olson is a very calm, cool and collected two-way defenceman who makes an impact everywhere. He has a knack for finding the open lanes for his shot or passing to his team-mates. While retreating to defending, he uses his long powerful strides to keep his opponents in front of him, wide, and away from the net. Although he isn’t a noted hitter, as we saw in the video above, he can and will take the body when the situation calls for it.
He also dropped the gloves on a few occasions.
Olson saw an increase in all his offensive stats from his draft year. After posting 5 goals, 19 assists, 69 PIMs and -13 during the 14-15 season – he put up 9 goals, 38 assists, +16 and 90 PIMs in his D+1 season. His 47 points were ranked 17th in the WHL amongst defenceman, one point ahead of 2016 first round pick Lucas Johansen. Looking at just the 2015 draft eligible peer group, Olson was ranked 7th in total points and 7th in primary points amongst those defencemen.
So it’s clear, he was at the very least, in the conversation as one of the better defencemen in the WHL.
What is particularly impressive is that Prince George did not see a drastic increase in offensive production, going from 222 GF/PG in 2014-15 to 240 GF/PG in 2015-16. Olson just took on the added responsibility and ran with it – the next closest Cougar defenceman had 31 points or about 66% of Olson’s production.
The Cougars ran into the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round and were promptly eliminated. It was the Mathew Barzal show and Prince George was just a speed bump for the Thunderbirds.
When looking at the P/GP rate for Olson, he hovers around the 0.8 PPG mark for the majority of the season, but sees a slight drop off as the season wound down. Which isn’t surprising given that the Cougars went 3-7-0 in their final 10 games, with two of those wins coming against the Vancouver Giants.
I hoped that Olson would get an ATO with the Comets and at the very least practice with Utica, but ultimately the Canucks management felt that Olson needed to get a head start on his training regimen. Which is a fair thought, as Olson needs to add some more strength and fill out his frame.
Using pGPS, 31.0% of comparable players to Olson went on to becoming NHL regulars, and looking at the Canucks prospect pool, that percentage is just below some of the other well-known names that will be coming up. (obviously well below the high-end guys). Some of his closest comparable players were Brent Sopel, Luca Sbisa and Richard Matvichuk.
That chance of success is extremely favourable when we are looking at where Olson was taken in the 2015 NHL entry draft.
Olson will return to the WHL this season and look to build on a very successful D+1 season. If the Cougars are not in the mix for being a contender in the WHL, Olson could be a very sought after trade target for teams eyeing the WHL title. Ideally, he will see some consistency in his production throughout the season, because as we can see his production dropped off in the final 15 games and playoffs last season.
I would expect him to sign an ELC with the Canucks at some point before June 1, 2017, the date in which the Canucks would lose his rights – there has been enough progress and development that Olson is worth it. He will then go to the AHL and try to adapt quickly and carve out a career as a pro. Olson just turned 19 in March, so there is plenty of time for development.
I will be curious to see how he will do in Penticton at the Young Stars tournament – there will be some serious talent to defend against and he should be paired with some decent partners as well. Hopefully, he can take advantage of the situation and earn himself another invite to main training camp.
So far, that 210th overall pick is looking pretty good.