Mislav’s Euro Prospects: Sondre (G)Olden?

Mislav’s Euro Prospects: Sondre (G)Olden?

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Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Sondre Olden is a young player I started watching in the first game of this season’s rookie camp. He scored a somewhat lucky goal, but otherwise looked lanky and awkward. A game later, I started to take notice.

Smooth passing skills and a good frame, the kid even reminded me of Mats Sundin on a couple of occasions. This of course doesn’t mean he’ll be anything close to what Sundin was (few will) but that doesn’t mean that his movement and handling of the puck didn’t ring some bells.

Olden was born in Oslo, Norway on August 29th, 1992. His natural position is center, but he can play any forward position (has played RW on more than a couple of occasions and was even listed as a RW on Norway’s roster for the 2010 World Junior Championships). A left handed shooter, he is currently listed as being 6ft4, 178 lbs.

The thing I always look at when evaluating prospects is the guy who scouted him. Thommie Bergman was bang on when he recommended Anton Stralman, Carl Gunnarsson, even Viktor Stalberg. The thing that impresses me most about “his” players is their consistency in being at least solid. Anton Stralman isn’t a guy whose name jumps out at you but he is a good offensive defenseman who had 34 points last year and regularly features on the Columbus PP. Viktor Stalberg is finding his place in the Chicago lineup, featuring in 73 games this season, scoring 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points and a +4 season rating. Not bad considering he’s still learning the ropes and was picked in the 6th round (161st overall). Carl Gunnarsson (picked 194th overall in 2007) is the cream of the crop from that recently drafted bunch, since he’s turning into a legitimate top 4 NHL defenseman and is the only one in this group with a place on the current Leafs roster.

Our future Norwegian import was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 3rd round (79th overall) in 2010. The Leafs traded up to get him in the draft, moving our 3rd round pick in 2012 to have the opportunity to nab his NHL rights. He came highly recommended not just by Thommie Bergman but HÃ¥kan Andersson as well. You know, the Director of European Scouting partially responsible for the Red Wings’ annual Stanley Cup contention. Even prior to that, scouts seemed glued to his talent. In early 2009, the Modo Hockey (Sweden) J-20 team went all the way to Norway to recruit this promising, under the radar prospect from his then current team, Manglerud Star Ishockey, then a tier two team (now play Norwegian Eliteserien, tier 1).

In reality, the hype was far from under the rug in Sweden. Hockeymagasinet.com wrote about the Norwegian’s talent a couple of months before the transaction was made, saying how Sondre Olden, born in 1992, was ready to play for Modo. “We are delighted that he chose to move here, he has very good reputation and we hope he will continue to develop in the right direction for us” said MODO’s Lennart Hermansson, the club’s junior and talent manager/coach. He also called him the greatest Norwegian hockey talent since Espen Knutsen (played for the Mighty Ducks and Columbus). Quickly after the signing he jumped from Sweden’s Under-18 division to Under-20 as a 17-year-old.

He played his first ever Elitserien game on October 26, 2010 against HV71. Prior to his debut, Modo released its match squad the day after their debacle against Frölunda. His coach had this to say following the decision to include Olden:

“We have called Sondre down to Jönköping and he trained with us on Monday. We liked what we saw by Sondre at training camp in Switzerland during preseason and we hope that his youthful enthusiasm will rub off on the rest of the team.”

So far he only played three games in the Swedish Elitserien without registering a point while posting an even plus/minus rating, featuring mostly on the third and fourth lines. In Norway, he played 24 games, registering 9 goals and 17 assists for 26 points when playing against men in the second division (tier two hockey). His junior numbers are not overly impressive but solid nonetheless. Olden scored a total of 24 goals, 38 assists for 62 points in 81 games in Sweden and 52 goals, 53 assists in 38 games while playing junior hockey in Norway. At one point in his time representing Norway at the U18 international level he racked up 22 points in a five game span.

Unfortunately, his play of late has dropped off. The most recent World Juniors played in Buffalo didn’t help create a buzz about Sondre. His performance was meek at best, ending the tournament pointless with a -7 rating. He ranked 9th out of the 13 forwards selected on the team with 7 shots on goal throughout the tournament while playing a somewhat smaller role than I expected him to. This has to be put into perspective by the qualification that he was one of the rare players on that roster still playing junior hockey (most were paying tier 1 in Norway), although his play with Modo J20 team hasn’t been standout either.

He struggles winning puck battles mostly because he gets out muscled and outworked, and needs to realize that the only way to the NHL is by filling out and getting stronger. That said, the raw talent and frame didn’t go anywhere and is still visible in some of the moves he makes.

This article was intended as a presentation of a prospect I think will make an impact regardless of his relatively late draft position more than it being an old fashioned scouting report.  He’s a technically sound player with good puck control and better skating ability than I originally gave him credit for. He has the potential to be a contributor with the man advantage. Most scouts warn that he has a problem with consistency but I would, from what I’ve seen, view him as somewhat of a reliable scorer in the future mostly because of his play around the crease; he has a really good net presence and soft hands around the net. I also think his passing game has been somewhat overlooked in scouting reports and do think that this is one of the stronger areas of his game. His reach is long which enables him to protect the puck and make good passes when pressured. As some scouts noted, he, like many 18 year old kids, has some consistency and motivational issues, but with his kind effort in all three zones I don’t think he’s a kid who won’t work on his game enough to correct said faults. I do admit his weight is a problem, one that isn’t going to correct itself. 178lbs is far from his expected weight, but given his size and age, he has plenty of time to beef up.

On a final note – not that this represents any sort of objective criterion – but I just have a good gut feeling about this kid; I had that feeling since I first watched him and I still have it now. There’s just something about his play, and while I do consider him a long term project, I can’t seem to shake that feeling. As always with prospects, only time will tell.