Weekly Prospect Watch: Axel Blomqvist's breakout; Eric O'Dell dominates AHL

Undrafted Axel Blomqvist was traded this week from the last place Lethbridge Hurricanes in a friendly situation with the Victoria Royals as the Royals try to keep pace in the WHL's Western Conference. Eric O'Dell dealing with injuries but continuing dominance at AHL level.

Axel Blomqvist

Axel Blomqvist entered this season undrafted on a team that was projected to among the bottom feeders of the WHL. Then he accepted a long shot offer to attend camp with the Winnipeg Jets. It changed everything. After a strong rookie camp including two goals in the Penticton Rookie tournament Blomqvist was invited to main camp with the Jets. From there the 6'6' 212lbs forward would impress Jets brass enough to earn a contract on October 1st.

Since his return to the WHL, Blomqvist has been a bit of a mystery.  He scored a hat trick two weeks ago, his first career WHL hattrick but had looked disinterested at times on the atrocious Lethbridge Hurricanes team. The team had just 3 wins in their first 25 games. Blomqvist's -10 was far from team worst, but not particularly encouraging.  On the bright side his 8 goals in 19 games gave him 1 more goal than he scored in 59 games last season. Blomqvist was on a pace to beat last year's numbers of 7 goals, 26 assists in 59 games with 13 points in those 19 games.

Then came a trade. Axel Blomqvist was traded to the Victoria Royals. He has since had a chance to settle in and has looked great. The big hulking forward will never be any kind of speedster, however his size and strength make him invaluable to the cycle game. He has great on ice vision and very good hockey sense. His skating needs some work as does his positioning. Axel has 3 assists in 2 games while going +2 in Victoria. Victoria has outscored opponents 11-1 since his arrival  - after scoring just 63 goals in 26 games before Blomqvist's arrival. The big man is trending up, though he remains a project for the Winnipeg Jets.

Eric O`Dell

This is a name that will be much more familiar to Jets fans. After leading the AHL's St. John's IceCaps in scoring last season O'Dell is one of the Jets top prospects. O'Dell's strong play did not transfer over into much of a look in training camp this year, and a remarkably healthy forward group means that he has not yet gotten an NHL look in his young career. That said, his time will surely come.

This past weekend - with the IceCaps on the road for a 3 game trip - O'Dell continued his dominant ways. Although he missed the first game due to injury, O'Dell would go on to score 3 goals and get 1 assist in the two remaining games. In the series the IceCaps captured 4 of 6 points to move into 7th place in the AHL's Eastern Conference. O'Dell continues to lead the IceCaps in goals (10), points (20) and powerplay points (5) this season. He is on pace to beat his last year's numbers, provided he stays healthy (which has been a problem for him in the past) and stays in the AHL. His -9 is 2nd worst on the team and somewhat concerning amid the optimism.

Not a great skater, O'Dell makes up for it in other ways. Very smart with the puck, O'Dell has great on ice vision. He is also good at puck protection to make those plays.  O'Dell has the hard to find quality of always knowing where to be to score some points.  Eric needs to continue his work on skating and defensive zone coverage, but should get a look this season at the NHL level.  O'Dell will be eligible for waivers next year, and not many 23 year old centres, with back to back team point leading seasons, make it through waivers.

Other Notes from this Week

Lukas Sutter has just 2 assists in his last 6 games. Just 4 goals, 5 assists with a -5 rating in 19 games this year. These are not good numbers for an overager in junior hockey.

Josh Morrissey scored 2 goals for the second time this season with 2 goal, 3 point, +3 night in an 8-2 blowout win for his Prince Albert Raiders over the Lethbridge Hurricanes last Saturday. That moved him into 2nd all-time in goals from a Prince Albert Raiders defenseman. Above a point per game with numbers rapidly approaching last years totals, Morrissey is on the radar for the Canadian World Junior Team.

With 2 shutouts and just one goal against in his past 3 games, it's fair to say U-Mass Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck is on a hot streak. In the past two weeks he has made 111 saves on 112 shots. So far he has a mind boggling .951 save percentage, 1.57 goals against average and still only a 6-3-0 record.

JC Lipon has been suspended for 2 games by the AHL for a hit to the head on November 27th. He was also suspended last year for a hit to the head during the World Junior Championships.

Jan Kostalek has hit a bit a slide going without a point in the past 4 games while going -4. In the 5 games before that Kostalek had 11 assists. For a guy who had just 18 points in the whole season last year though he is still having a great breakout season.

Upcoming Games to Watch

Jets prospects Eric Comrie, Nicolas Petan, and Joshua Morrissey will suit up for Team WHL in the annual Subway Super Series on November 27th in Red Deer and November 28th in Lethbridge. This is a good opportunity to watch all CHL stars combined into one place. Scott Kosmachuk suited up last week for Team OHL, but went -2 with no points as the Russians swept the 2 game series against the OHL.

Blomqvist's Royals take on Comrie's Tri-City Americans on Friday, November 29th.

Morrissey's Raiders roll into town close to Winnipeg on Saturday, November 30th to take on the Wheat Kings.

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