Mathieu Olivier was quietly picked up by the Blue Jackets for a fourth round draft pick last summer. Thought of as a fringe roster player at the time, he not only made the team out of training camp: he became a solid contributor on the fourth line.
Olivier is a player who has worked hard and fought – literally – his way into the NHL. His acquisition was most likely prompted by the two game series the Jackets played against the Minnesota Wild in 2021-22. The team was walked all over by a tough Wild team, ultimately wilting under the pressure put on them by heavyweights like Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, and Nic Deslauriers.
When the Jackets picked up Olivier, a lot of people were critical of the trade for what looked like a classic “tough guy” acquisition. But if you followed the team closely, bringing in some muscle to keep opposing teams off of the talented offensive players for the Jackets, was a crucial need. Better yet, Olivier proved this season that he’s not just an enforcer – he played some pretty solid hockey for the Jackets.
Shuffled mostly on the team’s fourth line (and without special teams time), he somewhat quickly established himself as an excellent forechecker. Playing alongside speedster Eric Robinson, and banging two-way center Sean Kuraly, Olivier rounded out that line well and gave the team some good depth minutes.
What surprised me the most, was that he brings a little touch of skill to the game as well. He’s never going to be a 20 goal scorer or 50 point guy, but he held his own on the ice and when the opportunities came up, he took full advantage.
And, most importantly, he was as advertised for this team: a physical player who did not back down from any challenges. He was quick to defend his teammates whenever called upon, which is really what he was brought in to do. In fact, if you look up and down the roster, Olivier is one of only a handful of players who performed exactly as we needed him to, consistently, over the course of the full season.
Final season stats: 66 games played, 5 goals, 10 assists, 15 points, 81 PIMs, -20, 75 shots on goal. Overall grade: C+
Whatever the expectations were, I feel like Olivier met and even slightly exceeded them. In exchange for a fourth round pick, I thought this was terrific value and a much needed acquisition for the Jackets. Whether he’ll fit in here long-term is yet to be seen – but I do think he’ll get a contract extension from the Jackets this summer, probably at a nice little pay raise. Unfortunately, you need guys like this around to protect your skill guys, even in today’s NHL. You just have to hope that they can keep pace and play a regular shift, and Olivier did that just fine.