Reportedly set to come off the injured reserve list in just a matter of days, the Florida Panthers will soon be faced with the tough task of deciding what to do with talented young defenseman Dylan Olsen.
Having not played since suffering a lower-body injury on December 31st against the New York Rangers, Olsen will be coming back to a Panthers blue-line that looks quite different than the one he left behind. Since his departure, the team has seen the return of both Erik Gudbrason (orbital bone surgery) and Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery) to the blue-line.
Though sitting any of their current defenseman would be hard to swallow, lets take a look at why the Panthers’ should think twice before sending Olsen to the press box in a suite and tie.
In the 17 games that Olsen competed in since arriving to South Florida in a trade with Chicago, the Panthers fought their way to a 9-7-1 record and quickly changed the outlook of their season from cellar dwellers to a potential feel good story. Over those 17 games, Olsen earned 9 points (3G-6A-9P), including a career best five game point streak.
While Olsen certainly cannot be given all of the credit for the team’s turnaround, he has definitely been one of the players in the forefront of the Panthers’ quick rejuvenation as one of the team’s more efficient and reliable defensemen.
In fact, Olsen finds himself at or near the top of many key scoring and defensive categories for Panthers’ defenseman that have competed in at least 15 games this season.
Note: Statistics accurate as of January 9, 2013
Though these stats were compiled over a small sample size of 17 games, Olsen had shown no major signs of regression prior to his injury. It is also important to note the impact that Olsen has had on Panthers’ defenseman Erik Gudbranson whom he was paired with before Gudbranson’s orbital bone incident. Playing alongside Olsen, Gudbranson tallied 5 points (2G-3A-5P) and began to show signs of an offensive upside like nothing we had seen yet in his young career.
Sadly for Olsen, even though he is just now beginning to prove himself as a quality defenseman at the NHL level, his two-way contract may make him the odd man out on a now crowded Panther blue-line. However, given his track record thus far, there is no question that he has already proven himself deserving of a roster spot.
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