Between now and the start of the regular season, The Mack Report and The Eagle Tribune will bring you Q&A features with incoming Merrimack men’s hockey players ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Incoming Merrimack forward Chase Olsen committed to the Warriors not long after being traded to the Spruce Grove Saints in the AJHL last season. Olsen joined the Saints for a playoff push that included an AJHL Championship
The 21-year-old center joined the Saints in January last winter and centered the team’s top line, alongside Minnesota State recruit (and AJHL leading scorer), Chris Van Os-Shaw.
Olsen was a prolific scorer in the AJHL, scoring 191 points (83 goals, 108 assists) in 176 career games. After the trade last January, Olsen scored 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 20 games.
Q. What made Merrimack the place for you when you started to weigh it against other schools in the recruiting process?
Olsen: “When I flew down here, it really felt like home. I visited some other schools but Merrimack had a good mix of what I was looking for and the coaches talked about academics being as important as hockey, and how it all fits together. The other thing that really stood out for me was the small-campus feel. I was looking for that. Having the rink on campus and the community backing the team that way that they do here, it’s a great place. It’s hard to say no to a Hockey East team, too, along with the academics that came with it.
“When I came here, I knew I wanted to be out East, and Boston is a beautiful city. It’s a great fit for me coming from the West, so it was exciting. This just felt like the place for me, so I followed my gut.”
Q. That’s interesting, as a guy from Alberta, that you wanted to come out East. What was the reason behind that?
Olsen: “I don’t know. It’s always been this thing for me where, especially out in this part of the East, this is where North America started. I wanted to see the sights out here, between New York and Boston, this is where this whole part of the world started. To me, coming from Alberta, it was exciting coming out here and being at the front and center of North America.
Q. A lot of guys I’ve covered here at Merrimack who are from Alberta or British Columbia, they all say that Boston reminds them a lot of home. I know you haven’t been here long, but is that something you’ve noticed as well?
Olsen: “It does, but it is a little different. In Calgary you have about a million people. Coming to Boston I expected 10 or 12 million people, but it’s really about 800,000. It’s weird, because when you come the infrastructure is the same. There’s stuff going on in the city all the time and people are out and walking around and there are plenty of things to do. Then you have some smaller rural towns around it, where you can get a small-town feel, but you’re not far away from the big city at the same time. It is similar to where I grew up, coming from the Calgary area.
Q. You got traded at the deadline last year, and it seemed like your offensive numbers took off after that trade. What do you attribute that to? Was it just getting more opportunities on a different team?
Olsen: “My rookie year, me and my linemate led the AJHL in points. Then my next season I got mono so I was out for most of the year, and we had a coaching change and stuff. I missed most of that year and even when I was back, I didn’t feel 100 percent. There was some tough stuff going on in Olds that year too with our management and our coaching staff, just behind the scenes stuff. We were a lower-end team my second year.
“Spruce Grove picked me up at the deadline last year for a playoff push and I started to feel more back to 100 percent, and I was playing with more elite players as well. I just had that opportunity to shine. I was put on a line with (Minnesota State recruit) Chris Van Os-Shaw, who led the league in scoring, and I set him up a lot. I was his center, and that was awesome. That’s what they kind of recruited me for, to be his center on that line. Then we went on and to win the AJHL in my last year of juniors was really cool. That was absolutely what I wanted. We had great chemistry and I had a lot of opportunity from a really strong program.”
Q. If you could describe yourself as a player, how would you do that?
Olsen: “On and off the ice, my work ethic is what people talk about. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in the classroom, on the ice or in the weight room, I’m giving it 100 percent all the time. I think I can be a guy who can put up some numbers too, which I was able to do in juniors.
“On the ice I want to be strong on the boards and set guys up. I think I’m strong along the boards and I love to battle there and win pucks and then set up my teammates. I’m an offensive player but I think I’ve made stride with my two-way game. I can play PK or power play. My awareness on the ice is a big strength I think as well, combined with my passing ability. I like setting up nice plays. Who doesn’t?”