Counting down to 2023 As the IIHF World Junior Championship begins, we take a look at each of the 11 WHL players who will represent Canada at the event.
We wrap up our series with Everett Silvertips defenseman Olen Zellweger.
After 2022 After leading all defensemen in scoring at the World Juniors, Everett Silvertips quarterback Olen Zellweger is back for more.
The list of accolades is as long as his arm: World U18 and World Junior gold medalist; Anaheim Ducks prospect; reigning WHL Defenseman of the Year.
But Zellweger arrived at the Maritimes earlier this month with one mission in mind: help Canada repeat as champions in 2023. IIHF World Junior Championship.
“Always the last one off the rink. Always was.”
A great piece from @JClipperton_CP about Olen Zellweger’s intensive preparation method before 2023 #Young people of the world!https://t.co/vy9oM3CjUO
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) in 2022 December 17
During his time in Snohomish County, Zellweger became impressed with Silvertips head coach and general manager Dennis Williams, who was also tasked with leading Canada’s World Juniors behind the bench.
“Such a driven, driven player,” Williams told the Canadian Press. “Everybody talks about that with those types of athletes, the elite guys, but he’s on a whole different level. He is destined. He wants to be an NHL player. And he said it from day 1. He’s a guy and I can’t make it up, we have to get off the ice.
Assistant coach Stephane Julien at the end of the skate this morning 🇨🇦: “Get off the ice Zellweger!”
Olen was still the last guy left
“It’s fun being out there by myself,” he said. “It’s nice to do a little bit more and feel the puck, feel your edges” pic.twitter.com/7NfnEO2eph
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) in 2022 December 19
Williams admits Zellweger had to earn a spot in Everett’s lineup, but the talented defenseman has worked tirelessly to improve his game and was awarded the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s top blueliner last spring after a record 78-point campaign.
“Everybody thinks he just came out and was a top-2 defenseman,” Williams told the Canadian Press. “He was 6th when he first arrived. He was undersized, had to learn how to use his body against six-foot-three 19-year-olds.
“He just made up his mind.”
Olen Zellweger put some extra salsa on the last one tonight.@WHLsilvertips | @AnaheimDucks | #WHLHatTricks pic.twitter.com/RRxqRWh54k
— The WHL (@TheWHL) in 2022 October 13
As Canada ramps up its preparations for this year’s tournament, Zellweger finds himself in a similar role to the one he plays night in, night out with the Silvertips.
If in 2022 If the World Junior Championships were any indication, that lead role is a perfect fit for Zellweger.