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O'Dell flies into Ducks' sights

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ANAHEIM DUCKS
2007-08 SEASON STATS

Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 92 (9th East/16th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 +4
Home Points 52 (4th East/8th NHL)
Away Points 40 (10th East/22th NHL)

Eric O'Dell started last season with the Cumberland Grads of the Junior A Central Junior Hockey League, well off the scouting the radar of most NHL teams. But after jumping to the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, O'Dell began to attract scouts' attention.

O'Dell caught the eye of the Wolves after he had 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points in just 34 games in the CJHL. He drew attention from NHL scouts by putting up 14 goals and 18 assists in just 26 games with the Wolves.

"At the end of the OHL season I played pretty well, and a couple of (NHL) teams were talking to me," O'Dell told the Ottawa Citizen. "I thought I might get drafted. Then when I made Team Canada (for the World Under-18 championships), I figured I would be picked."

He figured correctly. On June 21 in his hometown of Ottawa, the Anaheim Ducks gave the young center the best birthday present of his life by taking him in the second round (No. 39) in the Entry Draft.

"This is my hometown, so I have a lot of people cheering for me," he said after being chosen by the 2007 Stanley Cup champs. "It’s great. I couldn't ask for anything better."

A shifty center with good playmaking abilities, O'Dell originally played in the CJHL with the intention of playing Division I hockey at St. Cloud State. He had been selected by the Oshawa Generals in the OHL draft, but he didn't report to their training camp. However, when the Generals traded his rights to Sudbury, he changed his mind about college and went the junior route instead.

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards believes O'Dell has tremendous potential because of his vision and stickhandling, but thinks his skating needs to get better, and he has to bulk up if he wants to play in the NHL.

"He led the (CJHL) in scoring before he joined Sudbury," Edwards said. "He made that team better, as he played with a lot of energy. He needs to improve on his skating, agility, and naturally needs to get bigger and stronger. But his playmaking ability and his puck skills are very good; he has a good shot and really sees the ice well. His adjustment to the OHL was instant -- he didn't trail off and produced every night.”

Mark Grady, O'Dell's coach in Cumberland, noticed the scouts checking out O'Dell at Grads games.

"I remember being on the ice in late November and he was getting interest (from NHL teams) and I said (to O'Dell), 'You're starting to get attention from places you've never thought you would,'" Grady said. "You will have to start taking this game seriously, because you're going to have some opportunities."

"Eric was like Gumby, the rubber man," Keith Schaefer, who coached O'Dell and against him, told the Ottawa Citizen. "You couldn't knock him over. And he saw everything so well. He has great puck sense."

In O'Dell's second game with Sudbury, he scored a goal and noticed the difference between his old league and his new one.

"That (his first OHL goal) was huge," he told the Sudbury Star. "It felt really good with all the fans going crazy. It was a lot different than Junior A when we got 50 fans a game.”

While Sudbury was limping to a last-place finish in the OHL, O'Dell was happy to be part of the team. His 32 points were sixth among OHL rookies, even though he played less than half a season with the Wolves.

After the OHL season, O'Dell played for Canada at the Under-18 World Championships, which was coached by former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn. He had a goal and three assists in seven games as the Canadians won the gold medal.

O'Dell may have a chance for another gold medal -- he was invited to Team Canada's training camp for the World Junior Championships.

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