RoughRiders' Olsson Likes To Mix It Up, Opponents Better Be Wary

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Referees attempt to break up a fight between Waterloo defense Dane Cooper and Roughriders forward Ross Olsson at the Cedar Rapids Roughriders vs Waterloo game at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on January 18, 2013. (Kaitlyn Bernauer/The Gazette-KCRG9)

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By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — He was celebrating a goal with his other four teammates on the ice.

As he got close to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders bench to slap fives with everyone else, Ross Olsson noticed a teammate get bumped into by an opposing Waterloo player. Olsson didn’t like that.

"He hit one of our guys going through the line, so I threw a shoulder into him," he said with a smile.

When you get a shoulder from a guy who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, you generally feel it. The Waterloo player ended up on his backside.

Olsson ended up in the penalty box.

"They gave me the misconduct," he said. "They always get the second guy, huh?"

If anything describes Olsson’s game, it’s that little snippet. The 18-year-old winger from suburban Boston has impressed since joining the RoughRiders in a trade from Lincoln.

It’s not just the two goals and five points in his first seven games. It’s the 55 penalty minutes as well.

"I’ve always tried to agitate guys, either behind the play or during the play," Olsson said. "I just try to get under their skin. It’s everything, verbal and physical. Just let them know I’m there. They usually give it right back to me."

Olsson was asked about some of the things he might say to get under the skin of an opponent. He grinned.

"There’s not much you could print in the paper, honestly," he said.

"He’s got size, he’s an abrasive player, he’s real strong on the wall," said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson, who has had his share of rough-and-tumble guys from Boston over the years. Think Kevin Brooks, Gerry Hickey and Jeremy Wilson.

"I think he’s got better hockey sense, vision and hands than people give him credit for," Carlson said. "I think he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player once he gets into a serious weight program."

Olsson, who will spend one more season in Cedar Rapids before heading back home to Northeastern University, is on NHL Central Scouting’s midseason list of top 2013 draft-eligible players. He hopes to get an invitation to a predraft player combine in Toronto early in the summer.

He doesn’t know if he’ll wind up getting drafted and is trying not to think much about it at this point. He has a season to wrap up here first.

"Carlson has been helping me with that," he said. "Don’t think about, just play my game like I have been the last umpteen years. When it comes along, I’m hoping they’ll invite me there to the draft combine. When that times comes, I’ll be ready for it."

Olsson’s hometown of Billerica, Mass., produced longtime major league pitcher Tom Glavine, who also was an NHL draft pick, and longtime NHL player Tom Fitzgerald. Could Olsson be the next big timer from Billerica?

"Being a big guy, I know I’ve got to work on my first few steps (skating). My acceleration," he said. "Getting to the puck more, being more consistent. Consistency is big in this league. Some shifts I’m on, and other shifts I take off. I can’t do that. I’ve got to be more consistent and show that I can go the whole game."

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