Photo Credit: Chris Mast/Everett Silvertips
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Olen Zellweger is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible defenseman. He is a Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native. It’s the same town that the Dach family (Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kirby Dach, 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect Colton Dach and Sherwood Park Royals defenseman Callie Dach), Washington Capitals 2018 draft selection Eric Florchuk and former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul calls home.
Zellweger is one of the youngest players in the 2021 draft class. He was born five days before the September 15, 2003 cut-off date.
In his youth hockey days, Olen played U15 hockey for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers and U15/U18 hockey for the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Edmonton, Alberta. He played alongside several 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Sebastian Cossa, Sean Tschigerl, Kyle Masters and Corson Ceulemans.
After his 2017-2018 campaign with Okanagan Hockey Academy, in which he was point-per-game player, he was drafted 42nd overall (2nd round) by the Everett Silvertips in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Once Zellweger’s 2018-2019 U18 season concluded, he made his debut for Everett.
In his first full season in the WHL, he played in 58 games and produced 12 points (two goals and ten assists). This past season was a shortened one due to COVID-19, but he was a point-per-game player and recorded 13 points in 11 games. Zellweger would have played in more league games, but he was invited to join Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championships in Plano, Texas and Frisco, Texas. At the tournament in the Dallas area, he shined and tallied eight points in seven games. His production helped secure a gold medal victory for Canada.
D.O.B – September 10, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left
Zellweger’s Style Of Play
Zellweger is a left handed defenseman, but he’s shown to be versatile and will play on the right side. Throughout his time with the Everett Silvertips, he has generally been deployed on the right side with a few shifts here and there with him on the left side. At the U18s in Texas, he also alternated between the left and right side.
When he’s in the offensive zone, he doesn’t just sit tight at the point. You can expect Zellweger will grab a hold of the puck and skate down low in the cycle and look for a teammate in the corners to pass towards. When on the power play, Zellweger enjoys playing along the half-wall and will drop dow low for support. But, that doesn’t mean that he won’t drop down when playing at 5v5. If there is a puck battle in the corner, you can expect him the move up to the perimeter. Zellweger has shown that the will jump on a dime and skate up from the point to along the half-wall to scoop up loose pucks in the corner. In addition, if one of his teammates is on the forecheck along the boards by the blue-line, Zellweger will sit at the top right face-off circle in the NZ. That has led to interceptions as the attacker attempts to get the puck out of his own zone, immediately fires the puck out of his zone and Zellweger grabs possession.
From a shooting perspective, If he is in control of the puck, he will pinch up into medium danger. He identifies open ice in medium danger, exploits is and fires quality shots on.
Prior to this past season, during the stay-at-home order, Zellweger worked on his shot at home. He was constantly working on accuracy and posted a few videos on his twitter profile.
His work clearly paid off. In this past WHL season, he had a two goals. Both of his goals came from low danger. One of his goals was a slap shot top shelf goal against the Portland Winterhawks and the other was a silky smooth wrist shote goal against Tri-City Americans. When I tweeted out the goal against the Tri-City Americans the other day, Donesh Mazloum from Future Considerations made an excellent point about how deceptive Zellweger can be with his shot release. When you look at the below clip, notice how his stick-handing at first allows him to generate the power he needs for his wrist shot. It just seems so fluid and not an average wrist shot wind-up.
When passing in the offensive zone, he illustrated that he’s strong at crisp tape to tape feed pass completion. He will complete quality tape to tape feeds on the power play. Zellweger will walk the line, implements quality crossovers to allow him to move laterally, get to centered ice, pivot and fire a tape to tape feed to his right side. This allows Zellweger to carry the attack with him and open up ice for his teammate.
But, what really makes Zellweger special in the offensive is his compete level. When he is in the offensive zone, trust me you know he is in the offensive. He is vocal on the ice. Will wave his stick blade in the air and holler for the puck for one-timers. He’s shown to be defensively aware. When a forward doesn’t drop back for a pinching defender, Zellweger will skate towards the other side (the side of the pinching defender), but he will go into the neutral zone incase of a breakout attempt. Even when he is out of position down low after taking a shot from medium danger, he will charge after an attacker who is controlling the puck and looking to instill the rush. He will catch up to the attack and steal possession with his long reach.
Zellweger will dart after loose pucks, net defensive recoveries and complete zone exit pass along the half-wall. He’s shown that he can dodge the forecheck with ease and complete a spin move before firing a quick breakout pass. Zellweger has an affinity to utilize an active stick, especially when defending wingers along the boards. He will swing his stick at mobile and strong puck-mover wingers like Seth Jarvis (Carolina Hurricanes prospect) in low danger at the half-wall and steal possession. When the attacker is beating Zellweger with his speed in the defensive zone and is a step or two ahead of him, he will opt to use an active stick to attempt to push play to low danger. If he is defending at the perimeter, he’ll look to square up in front of the shooter, bend his knees and place his stick blade in front of him to try to deflect shots. When he isn’t playing the puck carrier because the carrier is on the left side and his defensive partner is covering him, he’ll stay close to the attacker driving up centered ice.
While there is a lot to look in the defensive zone, there is still some work to be done with Zellweger’s development. Sometimes in the defensive zone, you will notice some positioning issues. On occasion, he will go too far in when there is a puck battle on the other half-wall. He also needs to be quicker with his decision making when grabbing defensive recoveries as he will wait too long and that allows to forecheck to catch up and trap him. Also, Zellweger doesn’t implement ton of face-to-face pressure in low danger along the blue-line, but does utilize an active stick to force the puck carrier to stay along the blue-line. But, the ultimate goal for Zellweger should be to acquire the necessary upper body strength to push into attackers when they are too fast for him or change directions on him unexpectedly. If he can net the upper body strength that’s needed, he will only become an even stronger defender. No pun intended.
Just like in the defensive zone, he will use implement active stick defending in the neutral zone, will whip out his stick and play the puck when defending the rush. Even when he’s slightly out of position in the offensive zone, he will drive back at top speed to play the rush from behind the attacker. He will use his active stick to frustrate the attacker and stall him. At that point, the attacker is stuck and is forced to dump the puck into the zone.
While he has shown that he can implement quality pressure with an active stick, further development is needed for Zellweger to become a stronger transitional defender. He tends to exert more pressure at centered ice versus at the blue-line. As mentioned, he will use an active stick to push the rush in the neutral zone, but it’s further up in the neutral zone and not at the point of entry for the attack. In addition, I’d like to see Zellweger bend his knees, lower his body and take up more room at the defensive zone blue-line. Zellweger has shown that he can use his stick to trap the rush, but he also will need to rely on his body from time to time to trap the rush.
When he is in control of the puck, he is an effective puck mover on the power play. He controls the pace from behind his net, good puck movement in the neutral zone and dumped the puck into the OZ to key up the cycle. There are shifts where he prefers to complete controlled zone entries, but his first instinct is to pass. Zellweger thrives at carrying the puck out of his own zone and completing lateral passes to a forward or his defensive partner.
If he is in possession of the puck in the defensive zone at the blue-line, you can expect him to attempt stretch passes. Unfortunately, Zellweger will struggle with his stretch passes. Most of the time, his stretch passes are slightly off point from his teammate and the defender covering Zellweger’s teammate will deflect the puck, which waives an icing call. I’d like to see Zellweger utilize his crossovers and edge work more to avoid traffic, get into the neutral zone and deliver a quality pass rather than rely on his stretch passes.
From a skating perspective, Zellweger will impress with good crossovers when moving laterally in the defensive zone prior to a zone exit/breakout pass and when walking the blue-line in the offensive zone. He will deploy two lengthy skate extensions to gather speed when he’s pinched up and has to catch up to the puck carrier in the neutral zone. Zellweger will utilize that same speed to dart after loose pucks in the corners in the offensive zone and to chase after loose pucks to complete defensive recoveries.
While he will gather speed when skating forward and deploys solid ankle flexion, he will struggle with acceleration when skating backwards. He needs to work on quick hip movements and crossovers when flipping from backwards to forwards skating. There are also a few shifts per game where you see Zellweger initially start to skate backwards in the neutral zone, but he realizes that the can’t stay toe-to-toe with the attacker. Zellweger will need to work on his developing his crossovers when skating backwards to drive the necessary acceleration to avoid shifting from backwards too forwards.
In addition, sometimes he will struggle with acceleration when skating forwards. These situations are more rare. But, you will see him use shorter skate extensions in a quick repetitive fashion to try to garner speed, yet that is far less effective than going into a power stride.
Zellweger will also sometimes struggle with keeping his balance when going in for a check along the boards. This has more to do with edges. When going in for a check, he will shift his body at the point of impact and struggle to keep his inside edges in form. That will also come to light on occasion when pivoting out from the forecheck when he is in possession of the puck along the boards in his own zone.
All-in-all, the NHL team who drafts Zellweger at the 2021 NHL Draft is getting a mobile defenseman, who is quick to loose pucks, has a pass-first mentality and loves utilizing an active stick when defending.
He projects to be a second pairing defenseman at the NHL level.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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