With the 27th selection in the 2021 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, Mile High Hockey selects Olen Zellweger - a defenseman from the Everett Silvertips - for the Colorado Avalanche.
Skill, speed and western Canada. Sound familiar? Olen Zellweger brings all three to the Avalanche organization. So why should the Avalanche add another small, skilled, great skater defender to the depth chart?
Because Zellweger is really good.
Not turning 18 until September, Zellweger is the youngest of the top prospects in this draft. That might make him more of a project than most, but he has already shown a huge jump in his development curve. That said, this past season he showed a huge step in his development and despite only playing a handful of games, Zellweger proved he is one of the most exciting prospects in the draft class.
With 13 points in 11 games, Zellweger eclipsed his entire production from his rookie season where he had 12 points in 58 games. On top of the abbreviated WHL season, the 17-year old contributed eight points in seven games for a powerhouse Team Canada at the U18 World Championship.
With time to let him grow on an off the ice, going back to Western Canada with the first round draft choice seems like a no brainer for the new Director of Amateur Scouting for the Avalanche.
Olen has two things you want in a smaller defender. Puck skills and elite skating. He might be one of the best skaters in the draft - at any position. While not a speedy guy, he has almost no flaws to his skating stride. The speed will come as he gets older and develops a stronger lower body.
Zellweger has an explosive stride that causes quick separation when transitioning out of the from defense to the neutral zone. With the separation speed he opens up space and creates time for himself as he leads the rush into the opposing end.
The young defender also has the ability to move the puck quickly and get it to team mates while stride. This is where his IQ and passing skills are on full display.
Areas of Improvement
One big flaw in Zellweger’s game is being able to react under pressure. He’s so used to being able to find space for himself that when an opponent is on him, he doesn’t aways react as quickly as you’d like. That will come as his mental maturity and confidence grow. He has a tendency to get pinned deep and fail to move the puck out while under forechecking pressure. While the pre-puck motions are there - scanning outlets, checks for on coming pressure - Zellweger needs to react a little quicker and be ok with just throwing the puck out of the zone.
His small area game is going to have to improve, especially with his size. Being so young, he often looks like a boy playing against men but again, that’s something that can only improve with time.
Zellweger saw a huge jump in production this season.
What Others are Saying
“Smooth all-around defensemen who can do it all, but still has a long path to the NHL. But a solid kid, in a great program who showed very well in the U18s.” – USA WHL scout
“His posture is nearly perfect, with his hips tilted back, his chest over his knees, and the right shin angle. He collects passes and sends them in motion. He uses the dotted line through the neutral zone. And he even works in a little bit of deception from time to time to keep his opponents off-balance. He’ll immediately recognize any opportunity to lead the rush and take it” - Mitch Brown - Elite Prospects 2021 draft guide
When the Avalanche call his name, he will spend two more full season in Everett to continue working on his physical and mental maturity. He will also have two good opportunities to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. From there I think a year in the AHL will also be good for his development to get used to the size and speed of pro players. He might take a little longer to get to the NHL than some in the draft class but once he gets there, he’ll make a big impact.
Full SB Nation Mock Draft
- Buffalo Sabres - Owen Power
- Seattle Kraken - Matthew Beniers
- Anaheim Ducks - Dylan Guenther
- New Jersey Devils - Luke Hughes
- Columbus Blue Jackets - William Eklund
- Detroit Red Wings - Mason McTavish
- San Jose Sharks - Kent Johnson
- Los Angeles Kings - Simon Edvinsson
- Vancouver Canucks - Brandt Clarke
- Ottawa Senators - Fabian Lysell
- Chicago Blackhawks - Jesper Wallstedt
- Calgary Flames - Cole Sillinger
- Minnesota Wild - Aatu Raty
- Dallas Stars - Corson Ceuelemans
- New York Rangers - Chaz Lucius
- St. Louis Blues - Matthew Coronato
- Winnipeg Jets - Logan Stankoven
- Nashville Predators - Oskar Olausson
- Edmonton Oilers - Sebastian Cossa
- Boston Bruins - Isak Rosen
- Minnesota Wild - Fyodor Svechkov
- Vegas Golden Knights - Zachary Bolduc
- Florida Panthers - Carson Lambos
- Columbus Blue Jackets - Nikita Chibrikov
- Minnesota Wild - Francesco Pinelli
- Carolina Hurricanes - Brennan Othmann
- Colorado Avalanche - Olen Zellweger
- New Jersey Devils - Simon Robertsson
- Detroit Red Wings - Zach Dean
- Montreal Canadiens - Xavier Bourgault
- Columbus Blue Jackets - Daniil Chayka