With Eric O'Dell we now come to tenth player in the Winnipeg Jets top 25 under 25. Other than two votes, the top ten was a complete consensus for the voters, although the order wasn't as consensus.
Last year the Jets' depth in prospects was so poor, we at Arctic Ice Hockey only did a top 10 series. Thankfully things have moved in the right direction with new additions and older prospects like Paul Postma and Eric O`Dell proving their worth.
Previous Rank: NR
Took the road less traveled by
Similar to Mark Scheifele, Eric O`Dell was originally committed to play in university but changed his direction after his OHL rights were traded. O`Dell was playing in Junior A at the time and when the Oshawa Generals traded his rights to the Sudbury Wolves mid-season, the opportunity arose to jump into the OHL right away.
O'Dell entered Major Juniors part way through the season in January and still finished strong. O`Dell's 32 points was 15th for rookies. His 1.23 points per game played was only behind John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall and Cody Hodgson for players under 18 that season (Zach Bogosian was seventh). In fact, only Evander Kane and Nicolas Petan had a greater draft year production among Jets' prospects. O`Dell also played for the U18 Team Canada squad for the WJC, playing along side players like Hodgson and Hall, as well as Jordan Eberle, Matt Duchene, Tyler Myers, and Travis Hamonic. The Anaheim Ducks then selected O'Dell 39th overall in the 2008 draft.
The next season Eric O`Dell's production fell a bit, dipping just below a point per game, although his goal scoring pace stayed relatively similar. His draft +1 production is along the lines of J.C. Lipon, Scott Kosmachuk, Adam Lowry, and Ivan Telegin levels, not the Mark Scheifele and Alexander Burmistrov levels of the season prior. However, he still led his team in goal scoring and was second in points. The Anaheim Ducks organization then decided to trade O`Dell for Erik Christensen (one of the pieces in the Marian Hossa trade from the year prior) of the Atlanta Thrashers organization.
The season after that marked some offensive improvement, as O`Dell once again paced over a point per game playing on a very poor Wolves team, with O'Denn being one of only two players that scored over twenty goals. The organization also had O`Dell play a few AHL games to gain some pro experience after the Wolves were swept out of the first round.
Over the summer break, O`Dell began to experience heart palpitations after light activities like walking. When getting it checked out, the doctors discovered O`Dell had a small hole in his heart from birth. The hole prevented his heart from ever working at 100% efficiency. They were able to repair the hole, but O`Dell missed training camp and wasn't able to graduate to pro hockey while recovering from the surgery.
O`Dell returned to junior as an overage player for the later half of the OHL season. He had his most productive season since his rookie year, continuing his upward trajectory over the last three seasons. O`Dell also had his best post-season success, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists in eight playoff games.
The next season the Atlanta Thrashers organization moved to Winnipeg and the team's AHL affiliation moved to St John's, Newfoundland. The IceCaps were a stacked team, full of AHL veterans, and placed second in the eastern conference and third in the league; they also went to the conference finals in the playoffs. A combination of injuries and team depth made it difficult for Eric O`Dell to gain substantial ice time. He did, however, posted the fourth best goals per game on the team.
In O`Dell's second pro season he had a breakout year, as he led the team in points and goals. In a season that saw a lot of NHL calibre talent, thus raising the quality of competition substantially, O`Dell posted the 31st best points per game played in the league for players with 20+ games. From Rob Volman, we can determine the NHL equivalent of O`Dell's points per game played, thus comparing his progression through his development. Eric's 2012-13 NHLE production was his best yet, even surpassing his exceptional --and likely inflated-- OHL rookie season.
Where will O`Dell end up?
O`Dell is currently trying to earn a spot in the Jets' bottom six, or at the very least be a top call-up option. At 23 the window of opportunity has yet to close, but it won't remain open forever. It is still yet to be determined whether O`Dell will top out as a top 6 player or a depth player, but he has already proven to be a pro-level scorer, something very few in the Jets' top 25 list have accomplished.
While last season was his breakout year, the next two seasons will likely shape the remainder of Eric O`Dell's hockey career.
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