Being drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t give Brendan O’Donnell a swollen ego.
O’Donnell, a sixth-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft who led the Winnipeg South Blues in scoring with 61 points in 53 games during his rookie season, chalked it up to being a good experience.
“It was nice to get the recognition,” said O’Donnell, with beads of sweat dripping from his face following a hard skate on Monday. “It’s only the first step. There is still a lot of hard work to be done.”
That wasn’t the lone highlight of O’Donnell’s summer. While his hometown is Winnipeg, the first three years of his life were spent in Flin Flon, Man., known for producing Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer, Bobby Clarke. Participating in a summer tournament in northern Manitoba, O’Donnell had the chance to skate with Clarke.
“It was good. He’s still a good player,” said O’Donnell, who was acquired from the Blues for Graeme McCormack and future considerations. “He gave me some advice. With someone that good, you are going to listen to them.”
This season he will be listening to Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson as he strives to get better.
“I think Fred and the coaching staff did a good job developing players,” added the six-foot, 185 pound centre, who represented Canada West during last year’s World Junior A Challenge. “They have had a lot of great players come through here.”
Prior to the Vees heading to Trail for the Mountain FM Ashes tournament, which began Thursday and concludes on Saturday, O’Donnell said training camp had gone well. He was impressed with the skill and is looking forward to the new season.
As for fitting in, O’Donnell said he just wants “to do my part.”
“We have a lot of skill out here so a lot of great players,” said O’Donnell, who has already started a friendship with Murray Maxwell, who is part of the team staff. “You just want to do whatever you can to get the win.”
Harbinson has been impressed with his summer acquisition adding that O’Donnell is a “a highly intelligent hockey player.”
“I think he does a bit of everything,” said Harbinson, who wouldn’t let knee surgery keep him away from the rink. “Looks like he’s the kind of guy that can break things down with his vision. He seems to get pucks to the right areas. He’s got a great shot from the outside.”
Having watched O’Donnell during his midget days and during last years World Junior A Challenge, Harbinson feels the 18-year-old adds to the depth the Vees will have.
“He’s an all-round great player,” said Harbinson.
O’Donnell’s former coach with the Blues, Don MacGillvray, said the Vees have someone who will make others better.
“He’s a top-end offensive player,” said MacGillvray, who traded O’Donnell since he wanted to play away from home and was heading to the United States Hockey League, which would have caused the Blues to get no players in return. “They are getting a top-notch player.”
Vees notebook: The Vees have 28 players and will make final roster decisions following the tournament in Trail. Recently, the Vees have moved Spencer Copp to the Brooks Bandits for future considerations, as well as Kiryl Rybalkin to the Abitibi Eskimos. On Aug. 30, they acquired Mark Hall from the Canmore Eagles for future considerations. The goaltending tandem is set with Joel Rumpel and Billy Faust in charge of keeping pucks out.
“It should be a very good tandem,” said Harbinson.
Brendan O’Donnell is excited about what the Penticton Vees can do with the skilled players who have been recruited. Striving to improve himself, he wants to help the Vees win a championship.