(Article courtesy Martin Martinson/BattlefordsNow)
From his effortless skating stride to his shifty puck handling, and poise beyond his years, it hasn’t taken long for Battlefords North Stars defenceman, Carson Olsen to establish himself as worth the price of admission on the Battlefords’ blue line this season.
That’s why it came as no surprise to hear the product of Warman, SK., recently locked up a post-secondary commitment to play Division I hockey following his junior career, with the UMass Lowell River Hawks of Hockey East, one of the premier conferences in the NCAA.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time now,” Olsen said with a tone of gratitude, speaking to battlefordsNOW of his commitment. The 17-year-old added that between the location and nearby amenities – not to mention the high level of competition – the River Hawks’ made for a natural fit.
“Their recruiting was really awesome,” Olsen said. “I had great conversations with all the coaches, and their hockey team is obviously a great team. Hockey East is a good conference to be in, and their location is in Lowell, but it’s also just outside of Boston and the rink is really nice as well as their school.”
Despite his young age, Olsen’s journey to a Division I commitment was not without its adversity.
A third-round pick (#31 overall) of the North Stars in the 2022 SJHL Bantam Draft, following what would be his final year of U18 AA, Olsen’s ascension would face what would turn out to be a minor speed bump when he was cut during tryouts for his hometown Warman AAA team just a year ago.
As he recalls, it would be a call from the Prince Albert Mintos’ U18 team that would get him in the door of the AAA ranks, leading to a standout season that saw the then 16-year-old hit the ground running on his way to 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 43 games, a team-high amongst blue liners.
“Luckily Prince Albert reached out and wanted to sign me, which was definitely a no-brainer,” Olsen recalled. “Last year was obviously really good there with Tim Leonard as the head coach, as he does a good job of developing players and getting them ready for the next level.”
Following the season, Olsen continued his preparations for another big jump this fall, by working over the summer running Primal Athletics kids’ camps for ages 5-13 at the Aberdeen Rink. There, following some long days running around with the kids, Olsen again made the most of his time, using the resources available to him to continue to grow and develop.
“There was a gym there and shooting lanes, so I would be there [working] for a big chunk of the day and then go for a workout and use the shooting lanes after, just working a lot on skill work and that sort of thing,” he said.
That dedication to his craft has paid dividends early this season.
Making the North Stars’ opening night roster as an under-ager out of fall camp, Olsen has found himself not only as a mainstay in the Battlefords’ lineup but also suiting up alongside team captain Tanner Gold on the top defensive pairing for the defending champs.
“The thing that stands out most from his game is his skating,” Gold said of his young teammate. “He’s got incredible edges and also great straight-away speed and he uses it for both defending and creating offense for us.”
North Stars’ head coach, Brayden Klimosko said it’s great to see the young rearguard get recognized for his hard work and commitment to being the best he can be.
“He’s an elite-level talent and he’s gotten a great opportunity here and just run with it,” he said. “Carson’s got some nice flash to his game but he was overlooked there in Warman at times […] so for someone like him to keep working hard at his craft and keep getting better every year is a testament to him and now he’s getting rewarded because of it.
He’s a gamer, and he’s got a great future ahead.”