Starting the season with the B.C. Hockey League’s Cranbrook Bucks was a very good experience for Kimberley Dynamiter Leith Olafson.
“I got the chance to see the speed of the game that I want to get to. It was a bit of a jump for me to go play with them,” says Olafson, who rejoined the Dynamiters in November. “Having that experience is going to help me next year, knowing the speed the game is going to be right away and not a step behind like I was this year.”
Olafson played two games on the Bucks’ blueline against the Trail Smoke Eaters and says that was a cool “atmosphere playing against those top level players.”
The Bucks had planned to return Olafson to Kimberley earlier, but his play forced them to keep him around.
“My improvement was way more than they expected,” says the six-foot-two, 195 pound defenceman. “They told me to keep improving and continuing how I was going. Keep working hard. It was a pretty big confidence boost for me hearing that.”
Next fall, Olafson, who grew up near Kimberley in Wasa, will hit the ice with the Melfort Mustangs in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Being limited to practice with the Dynamiters wasn’t a negative for Olafson. He used the practices to work on skills such as puck movement and shooting. Olafson sees himself as a defensive defenceman, but when he joins the Mustangs, the coaching staff wants him to jump into the play and get involved with the rush. He will get an opportunity to show his offensive side.
Dynamiters coach-GM Derek Stuart says the biggest areas of improvement he saw is Olafson’s confidence with the puck and developing his offensive game, since making the team at 16. He has spent time working on his offensive skills and if he continues to do so, has the potential to develop into a top defenceman at the Junior A level. Stuart says the Mustangs are getting a competitor who is very driven to get better. With his six-foot-two, 195-pound frame, Olafson is a strong D-man who defends well and is tough to play against.
Playing in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League gave Olafson the experience of facing older and more skilled players. That experience allowed him to face high-calibre competition that will help him.
“Our team was really good last year. I got to see what a top tier team functions like and how the chemistry of everyone is,” says Olafson. “It was a good place for me to work on my game and improve myself. Playing in the KIJHLwas a good spot for me.”
His lone season playing games with the Dynamiters was a learning experience.
“We finished first overall and had a championship-caliber team in 2019-20, so it was tough to find him solid minutes,” says Stuart. “I credit Leith’s determination to get better in practice and take advantage of times he played that enabled him to develop as a 16-year-old as well as learn what it takes to have success as a team. He was going to be one of our top D this season if we had been allowed to play.”