Who had the five best Florida Panther debuts of all-time?
Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and Dylan.
All “Chappelle’s Show” related jokes aside, Monday night was truly an event to remember for Dylan Olsen as the 22-year-old defenseman shined in his debut with the Panthers.
Coming over in the trade that sent former Panther Kris Versteeg to Chicago nearly two weeks ago, Olsen spent three games with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage before joining the Panthers on Sunday in preparation for Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
With defenseman Matt Gilroy placed on injured reserve prior to Monday night’s action, the stage was set for Olsen to make his highly anticipated debut as the Panthers were set to begin a crucial five-game home stand.
As the first period got underway, Olsen was quick to announce himself to the home crowd at the BB&T Center as a formidable check sent Flyers’ forward Matt Read careening into the boards and brought fans at the arena to their feet. After the dust had settled from his grand entrance, Olsen continued to play a sound, fairly mistake-free defensive game that warranted an impressive 7:19 TOI through the first 20 minutes of action. Clearly the Panthers’ coaching staff was not going to be timid in implementing the young call-up into the team’s game plan.
Deadlocked at zero early in the 2nd period, Olsen helped break open the game with an assist on a goal by forward Sean Bergenheim at the 3:35 mark. With that assist, Olsen not only earned his first point with the Panthers, but also his second point overall in 29 career NHL games.
When the final buzzer had sounded, the Panthers not only found themselves atop the Flyers by a final score of 3-1, but also may have found a key defensive piece moving forward. Although he was not named a star of the game, Olsen finished the night with an impressive +2 rating, two blocked shots and an assist in 19:10 total TOI.
Helping Olsen ease into his new role with the Panthers was a familiar face in the form of Panthers’ defenseman Erik Gudbranson. A former teammate of Olsen’s on Canada’s 2010 U-18 World Junior Championships squad, Gudbranson and Olsen looked as if they had been playing together for years as the duo combined for three points (1G-2A-3P) and several key defensive plays.
“He was great. Extremely easy to play with,” Gudbranson said of his first game with Olsen.“We’ve already played together in a World Junior U-18 Tournament. We knew each other. We knew what to expect from each other. The biggest thing was we communicated so well on the ice. Every time I touched the puck I know where he was, he knew where I was.”
Proving to be a very prosperous pairing for the often defensively hampered Cats, the prospect of a Gudbranson and Olsen tandem going forward is a very real possibility.
As for Erik Gudbranson, the idea of a future alongside Olsen is something he would most certainly welcome.
“Absolutely,” Gudbranson said with a smile when asked if he would like to be paired with Olsen going forward. “I think we worked really well tonight, as you said we had some chemistry and that can only build.”
While the success of Monday night will surely be fresh in Olsen’s memory for quite some time, he also walked away with three things he did not have going in – an assist, a win, and the admiration of Panthers’ head coach Peter Horachek.
“I think he did a great job,” said Horachek. “Right from the beginning he made smart plays with the puck. He’s big, he’s strong and you didn’t see a lot of erratic play or turnovers from him. He was making smart first-time plays. He played 19 minutes. That’s a big debut against a really tough team to play against.”
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