When the final full roster for Hockey Canada for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge was announced, a lot of the names from the WHL had to be expected. There were first-round picks galore from the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Dylan Guenther from Edmonton, who was taken first overall, was there. Phenom Matthew Savoie, the first overall pick in 2019, was also named.
But among the 16 WHL players of the 66 that will play on one of three rosters for Hockey Canada in Swift Current and Medicine Hat at the end of the October and into November, there was just one guy who made the final roster that had not been invited to the U-17 development camp last summer.
That player was Everett Silvertips 16-year-old d-man Olen Zellweger.
Zellweger was also one of only two players not taken in the first round in 2018 to be named, and he was the latest drafted player listed at 42nd overall.
Everett general manager Garry Davidson was excited that Olen will be playing for his country later this month. His first month as a full-time WHL player has been a fruitful one.
“He didn’t go to the summer camp. I think it’s a feather in his hat that he came in here and worked really hard in the offseason and has come in and done a really good job as a young player. The draft is always one of those things. There were lots of defensemen taken ahead of him.”
Since Everett did not have a first-round pick in 2018, Zellweger already showing first-round level talent is a great sign for Davidson and the ‘Tips.
“We were pretty fortunate we got him in the (second) because we really liked his hands and his feet. It’s starting to bear fruit already for us. We are very happy and also happy for him that he’s got the opportunity to play internationally.”
Zellweger registered his first point in the WHL on Wednesday, and it came as the primary assist on the game-winning goal. Despite his early success, the adjustment to the WHL has been difficult for the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, native.
“The days are pretty long — go to school, come to the rink, and so on. We have to get to bed nice and early to be ready to perform, especially these weekday games. It’s a lot faster and you have to be ready to go every night,” Zellweger stated.
The honor of playing for his country and being named as one of the top-66 2003-born players in Canada by Hockey Canada is not lost on Zellweger.
“Yeah, lots of thanks to my teammates, coaches, and parents, and I worked really hard and it’s an honor to be selected for the team there. So I’m pretty excited for that,” Zellweger stated.
A constant for Zellweger this season has been playing on a pairing with 2001-born, right-handed blueliner Parker Hendren.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable with each other and supporting each other with one guy pressure. I think we are getting the puck out pretty well. I think we just need to keep going,” Zellweger relayed.
Zellweger also has been on the blue line for the second power play unit and has showcased some high-end playmaking skills for such a young player.
“I think I have been patient and am skating well with the puck, so I think I’m making good first passes. Each game I think I’m getting more comfortable, especially like skating with the puck.”
Davidson has already seen a lot of good things from Zellweger in that role and just sees that increasing as he gets more experience.
“There’s no question he’s a really good offensive defenseman. I really like not only his decisions getting pucks out but his decisions on the offensive blue line are really good. He’s going to be a real go-to guy on the power play at some point,” Davidson said.
It’s clear the hockey world has already started to notice.