It helped that Oskar Olausson’s corresponding call-up to the Avalanche squad was a journeyman.
Jayson Megna understands how tiring and stressful the process of adjusting to the NHL can be, so he offered to house Olausson after learning Tuesday that they would both be in the Avalanche lineup the next day.
“Waited up and said, ‘Anything you need, let me know. I would be happy to drive you to the ice rink. Whatever you need,'” Megna said. “I’m trying to make him as comfortable as possible for his first game tonight. I’m sure he has a lot of nerves and a bit scared.”
The two players promoted from the AHL for Wednesday’s game against Vancouver could hardly be different, at least in terms of where they are in their respective careers. Megna is a 32-year-old fourth-line forward who has oscillated between Denver and Loveland this season. It is his fourth season as a depth option in the organization, and Colorado is his fourth NHL team.
Olausson is the franchise’s 2021 first-round draft pick. Thirteen days after his 20th birthday, he was called up to make his NHL debut against the Canucks.
“Shocked, sure,” said the quiet Swedish prospect. “Felt like a dream.”
Olausson told Megna he prefers to drive to the Ball Arena himself, but Megna was at least able to offer some comfort by sharing his NHL debut experience. It was October 2013, but he still remembers it vividly.
“I remember being extremely nervous,” he said. “It was a game in Pittsburgh against the Islanders and I don’t think I wanted the puck in that game at all. I just wanted to go in and try to hit someone on the forecheck.”
He doesn’t think Olausson will be as scared of the puck. As acknowledged by Megna and coach Jared Bednar, the growing pain for Olausson and his entire generation of prospects is most evident in how to influence a game offensively off the puck.
“They’re used to having the puck on their stick and causing offense,” Bednar said. “…Young players that come up, they’re – generally – bigger, stronger, faster than some of the guys they’ve played all their lives against. So they create impetus. You get into the National Hockey League, you’re not. The league is full of guys who were just like that. Every player that played in the National Hockey League was elite when they played amateur.”
To give Olausson more runway, Bednar decided to put him in second row on Wednesday and put Martin Kaut in fourth.
Ice age and skill are key components in this decision: Olausson comes clean enough with a blast of shot and puck play to stay in the top six. His “high ceiling,” as Bednar described it, isn’t like a bottom-six grinder, the organization hopes.
“To get him somewhere where he could potentially play with like-minded players,” Bednar said.
Girard returns from injury
The Avalanche call-ups ruled out one defender in particular, although Andreas Englund was transferred to AHL Loveland with forwards Megna and Anton Blidh on Monday.
Sam Girard, who missed six games through injury, will return to the lineup against the Canucks. He has four points in 11 games this season.
Co-defender Bo Byram (lower body) stays on week-to-week, Bednar said. Byram didn’t skate.