photo courtesy of Doug Westcott/Tri-City Americans
“When life gives you lemons-you make lemonade,” is a phrase that dates back some 100 years. For the Tri-City Americans, the lemons are the injury to star centre Michael Rasmussen that puts him out for the next three months and the lemonade is centre/right wing Kyle Olson. The 1999-born native of Calgary, Alberta has moved from playing wing with Morgan Geekie, to playing centre and he has blossomed into a better player because of it. Olson knows that losing a guy who led the team in scoring for most of the season is a huge blow as the playoffs creep closer.
“With Rasmussen down, it obviously opens up an opportunity for me or another player to step up and play in his role. But I think with him going down it really hurts. It’s just an opportunity for other players to just step up and show what they have.”
Olson has 24 of his 54 points since January 6th and nine since Rasmussen went down with his injury before the game on February 4th. His play at both ends has been a key reason Tri-City coach Mike Williamson has to feel like he can trust him in the middle.
“Yeah I try to be a good two-way player the best I can and I try to play any role. I have played both positions: centre and wing before so I feel like wherever the coach needs me, that’s where I will play and try to do a good job there.”
Getting the opportunity to play a role where he is more defensively responsible has allowed him to work on just that.
“I have been working at improving in the defensive zone. I want to be a better two-way player and play well at both ends of the ice. So that the coaches can use me in any situation whether it’s going out there up a goal or down a goal.”
Those situations should be happening more and more as things tighten up with the playoffs nearing for the Americans. Last year they were eliminated in the final game of the regular season and making sure they were playing in late March was a big goal for Olson and his team going into this season.
“It’s really exciting. Last year was a tough one where we just, just did not make it. This year, I think we have a really deep team and we are going to make a strong playoff run.”
As for personal goals, Olson is doing well there also. “I came into this year with a goal of trying to hit 50 points and that comes when you are playing well. More importantly though, I think it’s important to be a positive player and I set a goal to be one.”
He has 54 points with seven games left and sits at plus-22 overall so both goals were crushed by the second-year player.
Even coming to the WHL was not a very certain thing for Olson, so he has to like how things have turned out in Kennewick. The NCAA was a real option for him and he was even drafted by the Tri-City Storm of the USHL.
“I was definitely thinking about it a lot. I didn’t end up signing here in Tri-City until the day we got on the bus to go to Everett for the preseason tournament. Me and my family were definitely thinking about going the school route but when it came down to it I came down here and felt out where I was going to fit in and ended up making the right decision.”
One perk of coming to the WHL has to be getting to play against people he grew up with like Everett Silvertips’ forward Riley Sutter.
“We actually played on the same line in Bantam so we know each other pretty well. We are pretty good friends so every time we play Everett there’s kind of a friendly rivalry but it’s always nice to play against him.”
As for what Olson feels he needs to improve upon in his own game, adding some much-needed strength to his five-foot-ten-inch, 150-pound frame is at the top of the list.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that I have to get stronger. I will be working really hard in the off-season to get stronger so I can be stronger on the ice and put on a few pounds and use that edge.”
Olson’s development has already taken large strides in his increased ice-time. How much he will learn and grow while playing key minutes in the playoffs is something that will be valued by both his team and NHL scouts.