Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Olczyk, as in...Olczyk

Sioux City Musketeers forward Tommy Olczyk announced yesterday via Twitter that he will be coming to Penn State this fall. And yes, before we go any further, he is the son of former NHLer turned Penguins coach turned analyst Eddie. And his older brother, also named Eddie, is a junior forward at UMass. Of course, you're probably already aware of Tommy's family situation if you watched last night's Bruins-Lightning game to hear the elder Eddie plug Penn State hockey on national TV while sharing the news of Tommy's choice.

Tommy Olczyk

Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
5'8", 184 pounds
Long Grove, IL
DOB 11/10/1990

USHL Player Page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
2007-08  Sioux City Musketeers  USHL   30    4    5    9   19

2008-09  Sioux City Musketeers  USHL   55    5    9   14   51
2009-10  Sioux City Musketeers  USHL   60    6   12   18   26
2010-11  Sioux City Musketeers  USHL   60   10    9   19   20

Olczyk, through the Musketeers' press release, outlined the quick courtship:
"I didn't hear from them until Gadowsky was hired," said the Long Grove, IL native. "I was contacted by one of their recruiters. He was a Penn State alum who I think played club hockey for the team. He was the one who kind of opened up my eyes and ears to the great thing that is starting there. And then a few weeks ago I spoke with Coach Gadowsky and he let me know they were really interested. My dad and I both went on a visit and we loved everything we saw. They are building something special there and something the whole Penn State community will be proud of."
He elaborated on his excitement further:
"It's the best feeling in the world," said Olczyk. "I've waited four years for the right thing and I've finally found it. It's a great opportunity and it's going to be a great experience."
I'm pretty excited too, for the simple reason that the Olczyk family and I go way back...to the finest video game ever produced, NHLPA '93.

My brother used to run my show with the Jets and the North Stars on that game. Of course, I was the Whalers and Kay Whitmore is a sieve...but I'd get the last laugh by hitting reset with two seconds left (it doesn't count as an L if it wasn't final, and I was undefeated in that game) and denting his skull with my controller, which sometimes made his head bleed, true to that game's form. Stay classy, 12-year-old me.

Now, years later, a younger Olczyk comes to Penn State following four seasons with the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers, and time prior to that with the Chicago Mission Tier 1 AAA program. This is heady stuff, indeed.

This past season, he had a goal and an assist in a 5-4 overtime win against Tri-City on February 18th and another multi-point effort came on December 8th against the Sioux Falls Stampede. Four of his 19 points came in the last eight games of the regular season, including a game-winning goal against the Stampede on March 26th. That late hot streak was not without significance, as the Musketeers needed to play well down the stretch to secure the Western Conference's final playoff spot with a 31-23-6 record, before losing in the opening round of the playoffs, again versus Sioux Falls.

While the stats might not look overly impressive at first glance, Olczyk is definitely a case where you have to consider the intangibles. A fourth-round pick of the Musketeers in the 2006 USHL Futures Draft, Olczyk ended up wearing a letter for two seasons, and was also captain of the Mission U16s prior to that. He plays in all situations - one of his ten 2010-2011 goals was a shorthanded marker, on New Year's Day against Waterloo. His famous father, a guy who certainly has the credibility to be a demanding hockey dad if required, is happy with how he and his brother developed in the USHL - both on and off the ice.
"Hockey-wise, the idea of teaching takes the forefront," he said. "It's about playing without the puck, enduring a grinding pro-style schedule and maturing because you're playing against men."

"But what the league doesn't get enough credit for is that these players and teams become part of the community. If you look at the percentages, very few make it to the very top of the pyramid, so developing them as people is just as important as their growth as players."
Olczyk was a significant part of the community, as demonstrated by his nomination for the Curt Hammer Award, given to a USHLer who distinguishes himself off the ice.

Philadelphia and PSU sports blog The School Philly beat me to posting about Olczyk by what seemed like an eternity and had some great insight as well:
Aside from having an NHL legend as a father, Tommy’s possession of the “intangibles” will surely please recently hired coach Guy Gadowsky. After four seasons with the United States Hockey League’s Sioux City Musketeers, the 5′ 8″ Olczyk has been described as a veteran two way forward who will contribute on many levels as a scrappy forechecker, as well as a locker room leader.

While Tommy Olczyk may not be the most talented prospect Penn State Hockey has brought on board since announcing they would join the NCAA Division 1 ranks, his consonant-riddled name will be the most recognizable on the blue and white Penn State sweaters next fall.
More recognizable than the two Daleys? Okay, neither Paul nor Josh are related to Dallas Star Trevor, but still, it's the same name...oh yeah, speaking of intangibles, you want to see Olczyk throw down? Of course you do.

And finally, here he is flashing some personality in giving a tour of the Musketeers' facilities:

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