January 18, 2018

Unknown Canadians: Eric O'Dell

There was never any questioning Eric O'Dell's heart in terms of his love of hockey.

But there once was questions pertaining to the actual health of his heart.

O'Dell is a versatile forward who can play any role you want him to. That's what helped make him a second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2008. He never got to play for the Ducks as he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) in a trade deadline deal less than a year later.

Shortly after doctors discovered he had a small hole in his heart that was never detected before. The hole, which doctors believed O'Dell was born with, required surgery and six months off.

O'Dell made a full recovery and no one questioned his heart again. But the procedure did delay O'Dell's development a touch.

O'Dell played four seasons with the Jets farm team in Newfoundland. He also got into 41 NHL games with the Jets spanned over two seasons, but never found a permanent home in the NHL.

By 2016 O'Dell headed to Europe to play professional hockey.

"I think each player knows, depending on the situation you're in with your organization, you know when the time is right to go to Europe," he said. "For me, it looked like I was destined for the AHL again. I have a family [wife and daughter] I have to think about. You want to play hockey, but at the same time you have to think about money and the situation was good over here."

O'Dell has been playing with HC Sochi of the KHL ever since. Playing in the former Olympic city has kept the 2018 Olympics goal firmly in focus.

"This has given all of us such a unique opportunity, and we're all going to work very hard to make the most of it," he said.

Unlike many of the players on Team Canada, the 27-year-old is not discounting the possibility of the bigger picture brightening with a strong Olympic tournament.

"Now I have to think about playing well over here and getting another shot [in the NHL]."

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