Olen Zellweger didn’t have to wait long Saturday morning to hear his name called.
The Everett Silvertips defenseman was the second player selected on day two of the NHL draft, as the Anaheim Ducks took him with the second pick of the second round.
“It’s pure excitement,” Zellweger told the Ducks’ website about being drafted by Anaheim.
“I would say I had quite a bit (of contact with the Ducks before the draft),” Zellweger added. “I had a few calls with them, so I kind of had a good feeling about them. I thought my calls went well, so that was a good sign. I guess I was just waiting for my name to be called and I was really excited for it to be the Ducks.”
At 34th overall Zellweger is the highest Silvertip taken in the NHL draft since defenseman Noah Juulsen was selected 26th overall in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens in 2015.
Also drafted from the Tips Saturday was Finnish winger Niko Huuhtanen. Huuhtanen, acquired during the CHL import draft last month, was selected with the draft’s final pick as the Tampa Bay Lightning picked him 224th overall in the seventh round. Goaltender Braden Holt, who was also a candidate to be drafted, was not selected.
Zellweger’s early selection completes his meteoric rise during the coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. The 17-year-old from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, tallied 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 11 games with the U.S. Division-champion Tips before being summoned by Hockey Canada to play at the U-18 World Championships. At the U-18s he continued his stellar play, putting up eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven games as Canada captured the gold medal.
And Anaheim was not deterred by Zellweger’s small stature — Zellweger is listed at 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, which is small for a defenseman.
”He’s probably closer to the way Jared Spurgeon (of the Minnesota Wild) plays, similar in how they help their teams play fast, get back for pucks quickly, move it up quickly, join the offense, dynamic overall,” Anaheim assistant general manager Martin Madden told the Ducks’ website. “I think it’s always good to move the puck to the forwards quickly and get that second layer of attack, and he fits that mold for sure.”
Huuhtanen, who will make his debut for Everett in October, is a rugged 6-foot-2, 204-pound winger who tallied 20 goals and 14 assists in 37 games with Tappara of the Finnish under-20 league last season. He was the second-overall selection in the import draft.
Despite being drafted Saturday, Zellweger and Huuhtanen are expected to play for Everett the next two seasons.