It helped that Oskar Olausson’s corresponding call-up to the Avalanche roster was a journeyman.
Jayson Megna understands just how strenuous and stressful the process of acclimating to the NHL can be, so he offered to accommodate Olausson after learning Tuesday that they would both be in the Avalanche lineup the next day.
“He reached out and said, ‘Anything you need, let me know. I’m happy to drive you to the rink. Whatever you need,’” Megna said. “Trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible for his first game tonight. I’m sure he’s got a lot of nerves and a little bit of anxiety.”
The two players promoted from the AHL for Wednesday’s game against Vancouver couldn’t be much different, at least in terms of the stage they’re at in their respective careers. Megna is a 32-year-old, fourth-line forward who has been up and down this season between Denver and Loveland. It’s 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. He was called up to make his NHL debut against the Canucks, 13 days after celebrating his 20th birthday.
“Shocked, for sure,” the quiet Swedish prospect said. “Felt like a dream.”
Olausson told Megna he preferred to drive himself to Ball Arena, but Megna at the very least was able to provide some comfort by sharing his NHL debut experience. It was in October of 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 at all that game. I just wanted to go in and try to hit somebody on the forecheck.”
He doesn’t think Olausson will have the same trepidation with the puck. In fact, as Megna and coach Jared Bednar attested, the growing pain for Olausson and his entire generation of prospects is most evident in how to affect a game offensively away from the puck.
“They’re used to having the puck on their stick and creating offense with it,” Bednar said. “… Young players coming up, they’re – generally speaking — bigger, stronger, faster than some of the guys they’ve been playing against their whole lives. So they create offense. You get to the National Hockey League, you’re not. League’s filled with guys that were the exact same way. Every guy playing in the National Hockey League was elite when he was playing in amateur.”
So in order to give Olausson more runway, Bednar elected to put him on the second line Wednesday, moving Martin Kaut down the fourth.
Ice time and skillset are key components in that decision: Olausson arrives with a firecracker of a shot and puck play smooth enough to hang in the top six. His “high ceiling,” as Bednar described it, is not as a bottom-six grinder, the organization hopes.
“Putting him in a spot that he might be able to play with like-minded players,” Bednar said.
Girard returns from injury
The Avalanche call-ups notably excluded a defenseman, despite Andreas Englund being reassigned to AHL Loveland on Monday with forwards Megna and Anton Blidh.
Sam Girard, who missed six games with an injury, will return to the lineup against the Canucks. He has four points in 11 games this season.
Fellow defenseman Bo Byram (lower body) remains week-to-week, Bednar said. Byram has not been skating.