O’Dell’s patience rewarded

Brendan McCarthy
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The St. John’s IceCaps’ Eric O’Dell (right) fights off the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Brendan Mikkelson during a game at Mile One Centre recently. O’Dell, the IceCaps’ leading scorer with 29 points in 28 games, was called up to the Winnipeg Jets for the first time in his pro career on Tuesday and was in the lineup for the team’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.

IceCaps leading scorer called up by Winnipeg Jets, plays in first NHL game

If Eric O’Dell’s patience with the puck is anything akin to his patience in his hockey career, then the Winnipeg Jets may have just made a shrewd move.
O’Dell, the leading scorer for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, was recalled by the parent Winnipeg Jets late Monday night and made his National Hockey League debut Tuesday in a 4-2 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo.

It is the first recall to the NHL for the 23-year-old centre, who has 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 28 games for St. John’s this season.

The promotion came in the third pro season for the Ottawa native, who was St. John’s MVP in 2012-13, when he topped the team with 55 points (29 goals and 26 assists) in 59 games, and who also is the IceCaps’ all-time leading scorer, with 106 points — equally divided between 53 goals and 53 assists — in 126 games.

“Being patient and staying positive, that’s what I’ve focused on,” said O’Dell after arriving in Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon on a roundabout flight from the Canadian capital via Chicago.

“I believed that if I did that and played well and played hard, my chance would come eventually.

“I know you hear that all the time, but I can’t see where it wouldn’t be true. I can’t see how getting frustrated would help. It would just take away from your focus and take away from your game and that’s never going to get you where you want to be.”

O’Dell is where he wants to be now, although it would be difficult to believe the positive, patient attitude he adopted didn’t undergo at least some testing during this calendar year.

There were many times over the 11 months when it seemed O’Dell might be in line for some time with the Jets, but it never happened.

After the end of the NHL lockout in January, forwards Maxime Macenauer, Aaron Gagnon, Jason Jaffray and Spencer Machacek were brought to the Jets’ mini training camp. O’Dell was not, although truth be told, he did have — in part because of injuries —  a slow start to the 2012-13 AHL campaign.

He did have an outstanding second half, averaging a point per game, with 24 goals and 18 assists in 42 games, but it was Patrice Cormier and Gagnon who were the centres recalled to Winnipeg during that time.

He enjoyed what all observers agree was a strong training camp with the Jets this fall, and although it was no huge shock he didn’t crack the Winnipeg roster to start the season, he had to watch as, first Cormier, and then John Albert, were promoted to the big club over the last couple of months.

And there have been plenty of points of comparison outside the organization.

O’Dell entered Tuesday tied for fourth in AHL scoring, the highest such point-getter in the league not to have played in the NHL this season and one of only four of the league’s top 20 scorers who haven’t been promoted at one time or another in the last 10 weeks.

What’s more, there have been more than 30 players (see accompanying list) who, like O’Dell, are currently the leading scorers on their AHL team, who have led their AHL team in scoring at some point this season or who led an AHL club in scoring last season, who have played in an NHL game this fall.

“No not really,” O’Dell answered when asked if he paid much attention if all those transactions.

“If you concentrate on those sorts of things, you are just asking to be frustrated. And anyway, the other way to look at it is that if those are the kinds of players getting recalls, and your in that group, chances are that your time will be coming.”

O’Dell even put the same sunny spin on his take on the earlier call-ups of Albert, who played on a line with O’Dell Tuesday, and Cormier, who has since been returned to St. John’s.

“The way I looked at it, in both cases, it was another player who was playing really well and deserved to be called up and maybe because (the Jets) were looking for something in particular. So I just thought, if I continue to play well and Winnipeg needs something that I can hopefully bring, I’d get my turn.”

Perhaps it’s the fact that there was a time, not that long ago, when he didn’t know if he’d be able to play hockey again, that he can look at things so affirmatively now. In the summer of 2010, O’Dell needed surgery to repair a congenital heart defect, causing him to miss the first half of his final junior campaign with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. However, he recovered completely and came back to finish with 44 points in 39 games with the Wolves, and has kept on improving after turning pro with the IceCaps in 2011.

In the past, O’Dell’s shortcomings as a player have always been seen as strength level and lack of top-notch skating speed. To counter the former, he spent extra time training this off-season and came to camp in his best shape ever, with added muscle. His skating has also improved since turning pro, although he’s always been able to compensate by being smart with the puck, by utilizing very good-on ice vision and through an innate ability to be where he needs to be, or close to it.

“I guesss you can say I’ve never been one to rip around the ice. Instead, I’ve always worked hard at reading the play and conserving energy to use it when it’s best,” he said. “Hopefully, that works (in the NHL), too. It’s a faster game, the puck moves faster, and obviously, the quality of players is that much better, but that can be a help, I think, for a player like me.

“All I know is that I can’t wait to find out. I’m ready to find out.”

bmcc@the telegram.com

The 32 players who are currently the leading scorer for their AHL teams this season, were leading their AHL team in scoring at the time of their recall this season, or who led their AHL team in scoring in 2012-13, who have played in NHL at some point since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Luke Adam, Rochester to Buffalo

Mark Arcobello, Oklahoma City to Edmonton *

Zach Boychuck, Charlotte to Carolina

T. J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies to Toronto Maple Leafs

Gabriel Dumont, Hamilton to Montreal

Tim Erixon, Springfield to Columbus @

Brian Gibbons, Wikes-Barre/Scranton to Pittsburgh

Erik Haula, Iowa to Minnesota @

Mike Hoffman, Binghamton to Ottawa

Justin Fontaine, Houston (now Iowa) to Minnesota *

Ryan Hamilton, Toronto Marlies to Edmonton #

Tyler Johnson, Syracuse to Tampa Bay *

Tomas Jurco, Grand Rapids to Detroit @

Bracken Kearns, Worcester to San Jose

Nikita Kucherov, Syracuse to Tampa Bay @

Patrick Maroon, Norfolk to Anaheim*

Andy Miele, Portland to Phoenix

Travis Morin, Texas to Dallas

Brock Nelson, Bridgeport to New York Islanders @

Gusta Nyquist, Grand Rapids to Detroit @

Linus l, Oklahoma City to Edmonton

Pascal Pelletier, Utica to Vancouver

Brandon Pirri, Rockford to Chicago

Richard Rakell, Norfolk to Anaheim

Colton Sceviour, Texas to Dallas @

Ryan Spooner, Providence to Boston @

Martin St. Pierre, Hamilton to Montreal

Ben Street, Abbotsford to Calgary

Ryan Strome, Bridgeport to New York Islanders @

Chris Terry, Charlotte to Carolina

Tyler Toffoli, Manchester to Los Angeles @

Linden Vey, Manchester to Los Angeles @

@ Currently on recall to an NHL team

• Has spent entire season to date in NHL

# Signed with a different NHL organization as a free agent during the off-season

Organizations: NHL, Winnipeg Jets, IceCaps New York Islanders NHL organization

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Buffalo Chicago Oklahoma City Edmonton Iowa Minnesota Syracuse Tampa Bay Grand Rapids Detroit Norfolk Texas Bridgeport Manchester Los Angeles Rochester Binghamton Houston Worcester Anaheim Portland Dallas Boston MontrealBen Street Abbotsford

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Recent comments

  • SayWhat
    December 18, 2013 - 15:14

    To Bob....So typical Newfoundland,..character assassination and insults and can't refute the argument. Go to the NHL website and chart the time on ice and look for O'Dell. Then chart Buffalo's fourth line. They got about double the ice time of the Jet's fourth line. They scored a goal and one of them was named the game's third star. What did O'Dell contribute? Not such when he's sitting on the bench most of the night.

  • SayWhat
    December 18, 2013 - 09:27

    A couple of days ago I wondered out loud what the front office really thought of the Ice Caps. Last night's game against Buffalo spoke volumes. Out of all the skaters from both teams, O'Dell saw the least amount of ice time. Seven shifts, 4 minutes and 39 seconds. The Winnipeg Free Press says it wasn't a large body of work. Here it is, second game in two night, O'Dell offers fresh legs for the Jets and he sits on the bench most of the night. Sure, the Zamboni driver got more ice time and it would not surprise me, O'Dell was in the trainer's room after the game getting splinters removed from his back side. And this was against the worst team in the NHL. At least he'll have one of the best seats in the house when the Jets are at home to one of the hottest teams (Florida) on Friday night. I now know the answer to my question. Bottom line..The front office says there's no talent on the Ice Caps capable of playing in the NHL.

    • Bob
      December 18, 2013 - 13:19

      I see your busy as a bee again today with your uneducated comments, must have finished up the paper route early today before the big storm hits......