BY: Gerry Cantlon, Special to Howlings
Howlings has learned that O’Donnell, a 24 year old rookie walk-on last season out of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia of Canadian University hockey, will not be staying in a hotel all year and live on a thread of PTO deals, instead, he has been give a one year, one way AHL deal by the New York Rangers.
This leaves Ryan Bourque, Darroll Powe, Bretton Stamler, goalies David LeNeveu and Dov Grumet-Morris, defenseman Danny Syvret and right wing Kyle Beach as the only players left as restricted or unrestricted free agents who have not officially been signed for next season by either the Rangers or another NHL organization.
The tryout O’ Donnell received last fall from the Rangers came via some hard lobbying by Saint Mary’s head coach Trevor Steinburga, himself a former NHL first round draft pick, made to Director of Pro Scouting Gordie Clark and via a one-time pro-teammate of Steinburg’s, the Rangers’ pro scout, Daniel Dore. O’ Donnell had training camp offers from the Florida Panthers and Providence Bruins, but felt Hartford was his best opportunity.
It turned out to be the right move.
O’Donnell’s first AHL shift came against the Adirondack Phantoms and was quite adventurous, coming to the aid of, then teammate Brodie Dupont, who’d been nailed along the right wing boards by veteran AHL tough guy Zack FitzGerald. Fitzgerald got the better of the bout early, but O’Donnell finished it with a solid left hook.
O’Donnell hails from the new Canadian hotbed of top players – Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. The Pack’s toughest forward had three goals and ten points, plus 85 PIM in his maiden season. O’Donnell became a jack of all trades for Ken Gernander’s roster. He sat out early as a healthy scratch, worked on the PK and then some as a energy guy and became a good timely shot blocker.
“The year was good, but I was unhappy how it finished off for us. It was one of those cases where we just ran out of games. I felt like we were one of the better teams the last 10 to 25 games,” O’Donnell said speaking of the team’s 18-6-1-0 stretch run .
O’Donnell lived in a hotel all season after signing a series of PTO agreements including a fourth and final one he signed with just over a week left in the regular season.
“I have a lot of confidence in my skills and I have something to bring to the organization,” O’Donnell said at the end of the season. “I’m happy and grateful for the opportunity I got in Hartford. They gave me the chance to play and to succeed.”
“I really just tried to contribute and help out in any way I could,” O’Donnell continued. “This year I showed people what I could do and I can play here. I love that I can come back and play here. I like the team, I like Hartford.”
He will indeed get to do just that and his work ethic will hopefully be the norm in the locker room at the start of the season.