Hayes, Olsen getting chance with Panthers

CHICAGO -- Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen were playing cards in a hotel room in Grand Rapid, Mich. just after a five-hour bus ride on Nov. 14 when they were invited to Rockford IceHogs general manager Mark Bernard’s room for a meeting.

Not long after, Hayes and Olsen discovered they had been traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Florida Panthers.

“We were both in a shock there for a little bit, but we both began to realize what opportunity we had,” Olsen said prior to facing the Blackhawks on Sunday.

The opportunity was a better chance of playing in the NHL. Hayes and Olsen had played for the Blackhawks at times over the last three seasons, but their chances had been limited, and there was no guarantee that would improve in the near future with the Blackhawks having so many established players signed over the next few seasons.

“Obviously it’s tough being traded,” Olsen said. “It was the first time I was traded before. But you look at what the Hawks have, the depth they have and the players they have, it’s a tough lineup to crack. Going to Florida, I thought it was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and start establishing myself in the NHL. I think it’s been good ever since I played my first game.”

Hayes and Olsen stepped into the Panthers’ lineup nearly immediately. Hayes played right away, and Olsen was called up after a few games in the AHL.

They have both taken advantage of their ice time as well. Hayes has three goals and one assist in eight games for the Panthers. He has scored one goal in each of the last two games. Olsen has one goal and three assists in six games and three points in the last two games.

Hayes held no hard feelings against the Blackhawks.

“They gave me a great chance to play,” Hayes said of the Blackhawks. “They say it’s a business. No matter what you got you got to be ready to play for whenever and whoever. They’re a great organization. They were great towards me. They gave me a chance to develop my game as well.”