Olen Zellweger Shines Bright in 2024 All-Star ClassicFeb 6, 2024
By Nick Aguilera/SanDiegoGulls.com
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Olen Zellweger.
The 20-year-old defenseman made his NHL debut on Jan. 23, picking up his first NHL point in the contest. After a four-game stint in Anaheim, he was sent back to San Diego for a couple more games before the rookie embarked for the AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose as the Gulls’ representative.
The weather tried its best to dampen the mood, as a heavy storm hit the Bay Area, making travel difficult. His parents missed the chance to watch him in the All-Star Skills Competition thanks to a delayed flight. But even through clouds, one of San Diego’s best young stars still shined bright in San Jose, collecting three assists to help the Pacific Division win the 2024 AHL All-Star Challenge.
"I’ve been in a lot of action here lately," Zellweger said. "It’s pretty cool [having my parents here]. They were planning to come here, and then I got the call to play up. They really wanted to make that one. I’ve seen them here quite a bit, which is awesome throughout the season. It’s a great event for them to see live.
"That’s how you want it to be. You want to be playing against the best and you dream of playing in the NHL. If that opportunity comes at any time you go for it and you play your best."
Zellweger’s weekend started at the Skills Competition, where he led off the event in the puck control relay. Zellweger also participated in the shooting accuracy challenge and smashed all four targets to help his Western Conference squad take home an 18-13 victory in the showcase.
"It was pretty cool," Zellweger said. "It was not that nerve wracking, but I think it would’ve been good to be the anchor [in the relay].
"I think I shot a little too fast, but at least I hit all four [targets] eventually there. I used all the pucks, all eight, but it was good. Something I can practice… It’s cool [seeing] guys you don’t see for periods of time that you know and watch how their teams are doing. Great to catch up with some guys that I know."
The All-Star Challenge brought a familiar sight as Zellweger was a catalyst for the Pacific Division. He picked up three helpers in the Pacific’s four games, tied for most among all skaters. Each of his assists came on goals that either gave the team the lead or tied the game, including one on Josh Doan’s game-tying goal in the championship game.
In the end, the Pacific defended their All-Star Challenge title after they took home bragging rights in the 2023 edition that saw Anaheim Ducks goaltender and former Gull Lukas Dostal take home co-MVP honors.
"Great experience. Pretty good intensity there in the final game which was really fun to be a part of," Zellweger said. “Good to get the win.
"I told [Dostal] we’ll try to keep it here in the Pacific Division. I’ll probably joke with him here when I see him next."
Zellweger won’t get much rest after his action-packed week. As the Gulls gear up for a playoff push, it won’t get much easier, especially with a weekend series against the third-place Calgary Wranglers starting Friday. But there’s no one more prepared to rise to the occasion than Zellweger, as he’s already shown just how quickly he can become the star of the show.