Dylan Olsen and Dan DeLisle won’t be overlooked at Minnesota Duluth, at least not by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Both were taken by Chicago in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft — Olsen in the first round, DeLisle in the third. Both are in UMD’s lineup today as freshmen as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association season opens with a series against Minnesota State-Mankato at the DECC.
Chicago’s director of player development, Norm Maciver of Duluth, a former UMD All-American defenseman, will have ample opportunity to view the pair of draft picks. However, he has no timetable for getting them to the NHL.
“We want them to be a big part of UMD’s program and to contribute here. Some time in the future, when it’s apparent they’re ready for the jump to the pros, then we’ll talk about that,” said Maciver, who was at the DECC on Sunday for UMD’s game against Northern Michigan. “We want them to enjoy where they are now and show progression as players.”
Olsen, 18, a defenseman from Calgary, Alberta, played the past two seasons with the successful Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. DeLisle, 19, a center from Arden Hills, Minn., played three varsity seasons with Totino-Grace High School.
Olsen played in the 2008 World Junior A Challenge and on Canada’s entry in the 2009 World Under-18 Championship. DeLisle led Totino-Grace in scoring as a junior and senior, and was a 2009 Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalist.
“I came here knowing I have to pick up my game; I need more speed and strength. But I also want to make an impact,” said Olsen, whose dad, Darryl, was a Northern Michigan defenseman from 1985-89. “It’s up in the air as to how long I’ll be here. Maybe a year, maybe two, but even if it’s four years, I’ll be going to school and getting an education.”
The Bulldogs weren’t used to losing underclassmen to the NHL until recently, and now have had five players in three years leave with eligibility remaining — Matt Niskanen, Mason Raymond, Jason Garrison, Alex Stalock and Evan Oberg.
Olsen and DeLisle were part of Chicago’s prospect camp in July and now have the experience of two college games. Olsen is paired defensively with junior Mike Montgomery, while DeLisle is centering a line with Kyle Schmidt and David Grun.
“I felt UMD was the best place for me to develop and it’s a dream of mine to get to the NHL,” said DeLisle, whose uncle, Joe DeLisle, was a UMD forward from 1984-88. “Chicago told me they’ll watch and wait until I’ve developed, and then I’ll get an opportunity. Right now, I’m still trying to get my feet wet.”
Olsen, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, and DeLisle, 6-5 and 225, are from different hockey backgrounds, with Olsen at a more advanced level in Canada the past two years. DeLisle is straight from high school, following a path taken by a few recent Bulldogs like Jordan Fulton, Chad Huttel and Niskanen.
Both players expect to offer help offensively and as a physical presence. DeLisle says he’s more than one-dimensional, and Olsen says he’ll take a stand if needed, like when teammate Mike Connolly was hit after a whistle in an exhibition game.
“I went up to [the opposing player] and said, ‘Come after someone your own size,’ ’’ said Olsen.
UMD coach Scott Sandelin likes what he sees from both.
“Dan has good hands and can shoot the puck, and has great reach. We want him to make it tough for other players,” said Sandelin. “Dylan is so smart and sees the ice and passes the puck so well.”
A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story, featuring Minnesota Wild No. 1 draft pick Nick Leddy, a defenseman from Eden Prairie, Minn., talked about his future as a University of Minnesota freshman. Gopher coach Don Lucia said he was told by Wild management that Leddy will be at Minnesota for at least two years, but not four years.
Maciver said Chicago won’t get as specific about its draft picks and will evaluate progress annually.