Prospect Report: Olen Zellweger

Prospect Report: Olen Zellweger

May 26, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

Olen Zellweger is ending his junior career with one large exclamation point.

The defenseman, one of the Anaheim Ducks’ top prospects, continued to fill his personal trophy case in 2022-23 with another standout season in the Western Hockey League. He split this year between the Everett Silvertips and Kamloops Blazers, posting 32-48=80 points in 55 regular-season games. The second-round selection (54th overall) of the Ducks in the 2021 NHL Draft, Zellweger took home the WHL’s Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league’s Defenseman of theear, for a second consecutive season.

With Zellweger's second victory in as many years, Anaheim prospects won the WHL Defenseman of the Year Award three times in the last nine seasons (Zellweger and Shea Theodore 2014-15). He is the sixth defenseman in WHL history to earn back-to-back Defenseman of the Years honors. In addition, he joined fellow prospects Tristan Luneau and Pavel Mintyukov to take home Defenseman of the Year honors, making the Ducks the first team in NHL history to have a prospect named the top blueliner in the three Canadian Hockey Leagues (OHL, QMJHL, WHL) in the same season.

With an impressive regular season already in the books, Zellweger elevated his play in the postseason. Kamloops will host the Memorial Cup this summer, securing a spot in junior hockey’s largest postseason tournament regardless of their finish in the WHL’s playoffs. That didn’t matter to Zellweger, who completed an incredible postseason run to lead Kamloops to the Western Conference Championship. He ranked second among all league skaters in postseason points (11-18=20) and plus/minus (+17), third in assists and tied for third in goals. In addition, he led all CHL blueliners in postseason points.

He grabbed another accolade in a season full of them, earning the WHL’s Player of the Month for April after recording 9-12=21 points and a +14 rating in nine contests. He had points in 11 of 13 total postseason games.

Zellweger is third all-time among WHL defensemen in points-per-game (2.07; min. 10 games), ranks tied for fourth in goals (11) and is tied for sixth in playoff points (11-18=29). He was four points shy of matching the all-time WHL playoff record for points by a defenseman, and two goals shy of the record by a WHL defenseman. Zellweger is just one of two players (also Derrick Poulliot in 2013-14) to score 29 or more points in a WHL postseason since 1999.

It's an impressive resume for a defenseman on the smaller side, as Zellweger checks in at 5-foot-9. His competitive nature and his off-ice work more than make up for a lack of stature and caught the eye of Hall-of-Fame defenseman – and Anaheim’s Special Advisor to Hockey Operations – Scott Niedermayer.

"He wants to do something every time he's on the ice," the legendary defenseman said during a team-hosted event in March. "When you get to the highest level of hockey, sometimes that can be a challenge, and you have to figure out when and where you do that. But you love to see it. Pat talked about the competitiveness and what he wants in players. [Zellweger] has it. He has that competitiveness."

It’s no secret Zellweger will headline a crop of young Anaheim prospects making the leap to the professional ranks next season. In a press conference to introduce San Diego Gulls head coach Matt McIlvane – held just a few weeks ago – Anaheim General Manager Pat Verbeek discussed the young Ducklings ready to take flight and San Diego’s importance in developing those players.

"We have a very exciting group of young players," Verbeek said during the press conference. "Matt's probably going to see about 10 players, 21 and under next year that he's going to have to oversee, mold, make them understand what it takes to become a pro, but make them understand what it takes to become a champion. And essentially, he's going to be building champions here for the next couple of years."

Zellweger has some limited American Hockey League experience. The blueliner joined San Diego during the team’s brief 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs run, making his debut on May 5. He picked up his first AHL point and assist in the loss, posting a +1 rating.

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