The Anaheim Ducks are giving one of the most underrated defense prospects in the league his first taste of professional hockey, assigning Olen Zellweger to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. Zellweger’s Everett Silvertips were eliminated yesterday in the first round of the WHL playoffs, losing the series 4-2 to the eighth-seeded Vancouver Giants in what was one of the largest playoff upsets in WHL history.
Selected just last year in the 2021 NHL Draft (34th overall), Zellweger, despite having 13 points in 11 games with Everett and eight points in seven games with Canada at the U18 World Junior Championships, was never regarded as a top defenseman in the class due to his 5’10”, 174 lb frame. He quickly started to prove scouts wrong this season, putting his first-round talent on display with 78 points in 55 games with Everett, shattering the franchise record for points in a season by a defenseman.
Zellweger still has another year of WHL eligibility and will return there next season in all likelihood, but with his team eliminated and under NHL contract, the Ducks are free to re-assign him to San Diego where he’ll likely get into some playoff games for the Gulls.
Zellweger has the highest ceiling of any Ducks defense prospect not named Jamie Drysdale, and this will be a great indication for the Ducks organization as to whether he can transfer his dominant skating and offensive game to the pro level.