Based on the reputation certain teams in the NHL have for scouting and drafting talent late in the draft, if you had to steal a European forward in a later round out from under one team, you'd probably want to be poaching the Detroit Red Wings.
In the 3rd round of the 2010 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a trade with the Los Angeles Kings to acquire their 79th pick in the draft so they could move ahead of the Wings and take Olden, a lanky Norwegian centre who had just completed a strong season in Sweden's junior leagues. The Leafs were enamoured with his offensive skill set but also with his two-way play. And as one of the youngest players selected in the 2010 Draft, Olden would have plenty of time to add the size needed to compete at the pro level (6'3", 176 at the time of the draft) and develop his game.
The forward was always expected to be something of a long-term project, but just one and a half years into his development he has been slowly progressing. Olden's future potential secures him spot #19 on our list of the top 25 Leafs under 25.
As a 17-year old, Olden progressed rapidly as a player after making the move from his native Norway to MODO in Sweden, scoring an eye-popping 26 points in 8 games in the J18 league, and then graduating to the J20 league where he continued his scoring clip by contributin 27 point sin 32 games. He also shone for Norway's international squads, accumulating 22 points in 5 games at the Under 18 Championships (Division 1) and 4 points in 5 games at the Under 20 Championships (Division 1), helping Norway achieve promotion to the main tournament.
The following year he would score 22 points in 30 games at the J20 league, and made his professional debut playing 3 games for the MODO Senior team, which finished last in the SEL that season. He also was selected again to represent Norway at the World Junior Championships held in Buffalo, but was held pointless through 6 games as an overmatched Norway side was relegated. After the season he would move to North America to play for the Erie Otters with fellow Leaf prospect Greg McKegg.
This season of transition to the North American game has not been easy on Olden. Erie has had an awful season, languishing at the bottom of the OHL all season, and Olden has managed just 15 points in 22 games (along with a -22 rating that compared to some of his peers isn't actually that bad). Olden missed a good period of time in November due to an injury, and left the team in December to represent his country for a third consecutive year at the U20 Championships. Olden scored 8 points in 5 games for Norway (back in Division 1) as Norway failed to achieve promotion.
Olden turned 19 just before the start of the current hockey season, so he'll be almost certainly returning to Erie next year for an overage season with the Otters. However, at the conclusion of this season he'll have been two years removed from his draft year, so the Leafs probably have to make a decision this spring on whether to offer him an ELC or let him re-enter the draft.
Overall the group seemed to find consensus for Olden at #19, with little variance except for SkinnyFish putting him much higer at #14, and myself dropping him down to 22.
For me, Olden's potential definitely merited him a spot in the Top 25. If he can fulfill his potential, I think he has a bit of a higher ceiling than some of the other prospects in the Leafs system, many of whom have a lower ceiling as a player but are probably more likely to reach it.
The problem is that to date, Olden's body of work is pretty limited and what's there hasn't blown me away. He's certainly been dealt an unlucky hand; he's played in three U20 Championships, twice in the second tier and once where his team got blown away, his only pro experience came for a last-place team in the SEL, and he jumped to the OHL only to land on the worst team in the league. And now his fellow Leaf prospect isn't even there anymore.
Still 19, Olden has time on his side and hopefully the Otters will improve enough that he can give a stronger showing in his overage year next season.