The Avalanche looked to be taking a commonplace gamble on gigantic Swedish forward Gustav Olhaver when they selected him in the 7th round this year. Seventh round picks rarely pan out so teams often swing for the fences with low-probability players or just take the next name on the list, any list, so they can get out of the building and deal with bigger issues.
After a cursory glance, this is exactly what I thought about Olhaver. Bounced around a couple leagues last year, didn't score much and fit the Avs current mania for size throughout the organization. It just screamed throwaway pick on a guy that wouldn't see the fun side of the Atlantic wearing skates in a million years.
Dig a little deeper and that doesn't seem to be the case.
First off, Olhaver is part of the Rogle organization which is headed by former (???) Avalanche scout Anders Carlsson and is also the former club of Dennis Everberg.
Second, he didn't really bounce around a few leagues. He was on the Rogle J20 team, the highest junior club, for the whole season and played in the lower leagues when idle to get more experience and development. Given that he was 17 all year, playing at the J20 level is a step ahead of his age and a good sign.
Third, he was selected by the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL in the 1st round of the CHL import draft last week. The T-birds happen to be coached by former Avalanche player and assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk. Sure, they could have had their eye on him beforehand but besides the fact it makes a good story there might be reason why that isn't the case. According to SportsNet's Andrew Eide:
"Scouting these players is difficult for the WHL teams as most don’t employ European scouts. They have to rely on sometimes grainy video, other coaches and limited viewings during international tournaments. After that, it’s somewhat of a roll of the dice whether these players will adapt to being far away from home and playing in smaller rinks with more physical players than they are used to."
So it makes more than a lot of sense that the catalyst for all this happening started with a team picking a former scout's brain about a good project player and creating an outside-the-box strategy to draft and develop using resources in a slightly unorthodox manner.
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That's the why, now let's look at the who.
Gustav Olhaver is a 6'6 213# C-LW from Angelholm, Sweden who just turned 18 on July 3rd. He's been with the Rogle organization since the age of fifteen and consistently played a step above his age level, you might guess primarily because of his size but there's been improvement every year in scoring as well. He also suited up for the Swedish U18 team on 11 occasions this season. Seems like a pretty laid back dude off the ice. Check out a Q&A he did with the T-birds staff right after getting drafted for his opinion on favorite Swedish dishes and other fun facts.
Stats from our friends at eliteprospects:
I think I may have read somewhere that Olhaver is attending the Avs Development Camp this week, but can't find confirmation right now. We'll find out in a few hours for sure.
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The more you look, the more there is to like about this fellow. Even if he doesn't end up developing like we would wish, the strategy used here is intriguing and could be a fantastic way to leverage higher-round draft picks in the future. Take a player that's off the radar slightly late rather than too early and use unconventional means to increase the value. Sounds a lot better than taking a small overage guy and hope he gets really really good all of a sudden.
Welcome to the Avs, Gus and good luck with the Thunderbirds. We'll be watching.