Olson set for battle with blueline buddy
— “Last year we had a real good team but came up short. It was tough the way we went out but I’m pretty proud of that first banner we’ll put up in the rink. It’s a big accomplishment for this organization and you keep taking steps and pretty soon those rafters will be full of banners.”
Collins still has pro ambitions but if that opportunity doesn’t come to him, assuming he plays in the WHL this year, he’ll have four years of paid university ahead of him. Collins has been an honours student throughout his school days and has plans to study business.
“That education scholarship would be tough to give up but if you have a chance to play pro it’s a no-brainer, you’re going to take it and that’s the goal,” he said. “I have to have a good year and get some interest and hopefully I’ll find a spot.”
Tate Olson is the other returning 20-year-old defenceman, back from a team which had a whopping 13 1997-born players. He arrived Tuesday from his home in Saskatoon and was back on the ice Thursday for his first skate with the Cougars since the playoffs in April. He says he no longer feels any pain in his shoulder but he’s not expected to be ready to play until early November.
Picked by the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh round in 2015, Olson focused more on his defensive game last season and his production dropped from 47 points in 2015-16 to 24 last season. He attended two Canuck camps but went unsigned and is now a free agent. Like Collins, he has three seasons of WHL experience and it would be tough for the Cougars to part with him.
Cougars coaches Richard Matvichuk and Shawn Chambers are former Stanley Cup-winning NHL defencemen, both entering their second season with the Cougars,
There’s only three spots available for overagers and it’s out of our control, whatever they decide.
and Olson wants to be around them again.
“I think I’m more composed on the ice, not as erratic and I don’t get out of position as much, and I think that’s one of the biggest things (he’s learned from the Cougar coaches), staying closer to home and not being way too crazy out on the ice – being better defensively is definitely stressed,” said Olson.
“(The NHL camps) showed me what everyone’s doing at the next level and it makes you want to be one of them, obviously. It just comes down to how much you want to do it. There’s 30 other teams out there and (getting dropped by the Canucks) is not the end of the world.”
Because Olson is on injured reserve, the Cougars can keep him for another two weeks after he returns to the game-day lineup.
“There’s only three spots available for overagers and it’s out of our control, whatever they decide,” said Olson. “Shane is probably one of my best buddies on the team but I guess it’s me and him against each other right now. You just have to go out and play and do your own job and if you play well enough it will make their choice for them.
“It would be nice to win here, I haven’t won a playoff series since I’ve been here. I think everyone has a bitter taste from that last year, so that comes as motivation.”
— Tate Olson