So. | F | Winnipeg, Manitoba
Key Statistics: O’Donnell battled injuries during his freshman season, but still managed to play in 17 games and record five goals, before his first year ended prematurely due to shoulder surgery in February. At the time of his final game, he led all North Dakota rookies in goals and was named WCHA Rookie of the Week in December after a two-goal game at Alaska Anchorage.
What He Does: The Winnipeg native has always been a goal-scorer and point-getter. During his final season in the BCHL, he was the second-leading scorer for the Penticton Vees (behind current Denver star Joey LaLeggia) with 72 points in 58 games. He paired with Mark MacMillan in juniors, and the pair skated together for a time last season in Grand Forks, with some success. His coaches say there’s a natural chemistry there, that might be utilized in 2012-13. Leading up to college, O’Donnell concentrated on gaining weight and size, but learned fast that the WCHA game was more conducive to speed. Doctors cleared him for full contact at his six-month checkup, and he has spent the summer staying healthy while working on leg strength and quickness.
The Bigger Picture: O’Donnell had never dealt with a significant injury before his first collegiate campaign, but was sidelined by a knee ailment after just four games, and had the aforementioned shoulder trouble during the stretch run. It was perfectly ill-fitting for the team in a season where coaches said seeming every week there was a new injury-related challenge. But rather than grouse about the cruel hand of fate, O’Donnell made the most of his time as a spectator. “I had a chance to see things from a different point of view, getting to watch guys practice and watch them play in games, and I learned a lot,” he said. “I got to experience things as a fan that most guys don’t. I got to learn what it’s like to see things as a fan in the Ralph, and to feel the passion of the fans here. That was pretty neat.” Most importantly, he got to watch the team win a WCHA playoff title and come within a game of the Frozen Four – feats he hopes to play a greater role in, and improve upon, as a sophomore.
North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, on what he expects from O’Donnell as a sophomore: “We know there’s much more to come. If anything, Brendan has to be a little more selfish with the puck in the offensive zone, instead of looking to dish to a teammate. In shooting situations, we need to see him put the puck on the net more often.”