This week, Bangkok, Thailand is expected to reach scorching temperatures of up to 39 degrees celsius. That’s a stark contrast to winters in St. Cloud, MN where Patrick Russell has gone to school for the last two years.
“It’s really hot here right now. I’m not really used to that,” Russell said.
The Danish hockey player, who came to the United States for school by way of Sweden and now sets his sights on continuing his career within a Canadian organization, is what we’d call well-traveled. Russell is in Thailand visiting his father, who works for a phone company in Bangkok.
“It’s kind of cool to experience different cultures that you’re not really used to,” he said. “It’s fun to see different parts of the world and soak in some different cultures.”
Russell can speak Danish, Swedish and fluent English with only a hint of a European accent. His father lives in Bangkok, and Bangladesh before that. His mother lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. His sister plays for the Danish women’s national hockey team. Russell has been to India, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Europe and now North America.
Russell has an interesting backstory and his career has had him always on the move. Hailing from Birkerod, Denmark, Russell played hockey in his home country before deciding to take his career on the road in Sweden. That meant leaving behind his family and venturing out on his own at a young age, much younger than most players do.
“I lived on my own, no family or anything, for high school,” said Russell. “Sweden is a little different from the USHL. In the USHL you live with a family, but in Sweden they give you an apartment and you live by yourself. It’s a little different, but I learned a lot from that and it really helped me in the long run.”
In his final year of European hockey before making the trek to North America, Russell captained Denmark’s U-20 team. He took his independence to the United States next, hoping to further his hockey career. He played one season for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, recording 49 points (29-20-49) in 55 games. He helped Waterloo secure the Anderson Cup, awarded to the regular season champions. Russell added eight points (5-3-8) in 12 playoff games. He then went on to pursue a collegiate career at St. Cloud State University.
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“They’ve done tremendous amounts,” Russell said of the Huskies program. “They helped me develop, they took me in and really believed in me and threw a lot at me. They told me how to play and they made me see the game in a different way and play smarter and play to my top ability every game.”
He earned 2015 All-NCHC Academic Team honours, and was named to the 2015 All-NCHC Rookie Team. Following a 25-point freshman campaign, Russell became a point-per-game player for St. Cloud in 2015-16. He scored 20 goals and added 21 assists for 41 points in 41 games, good for third on the team (second in goals).
The forward progression of Russell’s hockey career continued this off-season when he decided to turn pro. The Oilers were among the first to let the 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward know they wanted him.
“I told St. Cloud I wanted to go pro a week ago and I knew Edmonton was really interested and I kinda knew right away I wanted to go there when Edmonton showed interest. It’s a hockey town on the rise,” said Russell.
A few days after landing one top collegiate free agent in University of North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula, the Oilers closed the deal on the 23-year-old right-shot forward from Denmark, signing him to a two-year entry level contract. Where Caggiula provides speed, skill and grit, Russell says he projects more on the size and puck protection end of the spectrum.
“I would describe myself as a bigger player, a bigger-sized player,” said Russell. “I’m a strong player with the puck. I like to have the puck and I like to hit the players and have the puck down in their zone and protect it a lot.”
Russell’s travels have brought him many places, and now he adds the Oilers organization to his list. Through the free agent courting process, Russell, like Caggiula, found general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan to be great ambassadors for Edmonton. He liked the organization’s pitch and what it had to offer as a landing spot.
“You learn so much about the history of Edmonton and it’s fascinating,” said Russell. “They have a young core, and hopefully I can be a part of it. This organization has a big, big future ahead of us. Hopefully I can be a part of that. That’s something that really attracted me and obviously the GM, Chiarelli, and the head coach Todd McLellan really attracted me.”
Russell looks to bring size, experience and culture to the Oilers prospect pool, and he couldn’t be more excited to get started in his next adventure.