Brendan O’Donnell made the most of his one-game audition with the Winnipeg Jets in the Canucks Young Stars Classic.
A late addition to the roster, there was no guarantee the former Penticton Vee would play in the tournament that wrapped up on Monday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“With it being in Penticton, I was more than happy to come along and see some familiar faces,” said O’Donnell, who made his debut in the final game against Edmonton. “It was an opportunity I just kind of jumped on. I was kind of grateful that they asked me to come.”
O’Donnell, who put up 13 goals and 21 points in 40 games in his final season with North Dakota, collected an assist on Josh Morrisey’s goal to make it 4-2 as the Jets went on to win 5-4 in overtime.
“I thought I was OK. First game in six months,” said O’Donnell, who got the call on Sept. 8. “Some adjusting, get used to the pace. In a game where there’s not as much structure set up, it’s kind of run and gun, I think it looks a little messy at times.”
O’Donnell made an impression on Manitoba Moose (the Jets American Hockey League affiliate) coach Keith McCambridge.
“I thought he skates pretty well. Had good speed,” said McCambridge, following the win. “I thought he had a really good shot in the second period. He got it away really quick. Seems like a pretty dependable player in all three zones. I thought he played pretty well.”
When asked if he thought O’Donnell was good enough to play in the AHL, McCambridge said it was a good question, though still hard to gauge based on one game.
“There’s nothing that jumps out to me to say that he wouldn’t be able to start to take steps in that direction,” he said.
Before coming to Penticton, O’Donnell was invited to try out with the Moose. After completing his four-year career in the National Collegiate Athletic Association with North Dakota, O’Donnell inked a contract with the East Coast Hockey League’s Florida Everblades. He’s prepared to end up in the ECHL if he can’t stick in the AHL, however, O’Donnell feels ready to step up to the AHL level. He’s confident he developed well with North Dakota to make the jump.
“The opportunity to play for the Moose in Manitoba would be something special,” said O’Donnell, who watched the likes of Jason Jaffrey, Mike Keane, Jason Krog and Ryan Kesler. “I kind of grew up watching them when the Jets weren’t here. If I get the opportunity to do that, I’d be thrilled.”