Blackhawks’ Nick Leddy eager to learn from veteran Sean O’Donnell
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2011 10:14PM
Sean O'Donnell skates during Blackhawks training camp at the United Center Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: November 10, 2011 2:06PM
It didn’t take long for veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell to find himself at the receiving end of a joke with so many “kids” around him every day at Blackhawks training camp.
“Someone asked me the other day when my first year pro was, I said ,” O’Donnell said. “I asked Nick [Leddy] when he was born. He said ’91. I think they were setting it up a little bit.”
Yet, there’s a good chance the soon-to-be 40-year-old and the still-developing 20-year-old could be paired on the blue line.
One of the reasons the Hawks signed O’Donnell was to help mentor Leddy and other young players. His relationship with Leddy already is blossoming.
“There are things out there that I do that have kept me playing for a long time,” said O’Donnell, who will turn 40 on Oct. 13. “He’s got a set of skills that I don’t have. I’ve had to do other things to play this long, reading the play, anticipating the play, stick positioning. Things like that. That’s something I can help with Nick because he’s got all the tools to be a great defenseman.”
The Hawks’ revamped blue line has received positive reviews despite the loss of puck-mover and locker-room stalwart Brian Campbell. O’Donnell will bring leadership and rugged play, Steve Montador a right-handed shot and a physical presence and Sami Lepisto some puck-moving ability.
But general manager Stan Bowman and Co. are expecting a lot from Leddy after he played in 46 games last season and all seven in the playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks. At times, Leddy looked like a teenager, but he also showed the patience coach Joel Quenneville likes to talk about.
“Nick is one of those guys who could probably absorb more responsibility and ice time, be it power play or [penalty kill],” Quenneville said. “I don’t think [O’Donnell] is going to be playing a ton, but he’s one of those guys who can help those young guys mature in their game and be comfortable in the defensive part of his game.”
In other words, Leddy’s development, especially with Campbell now with the Florida Panthers, might have a bigger impact than how well some of the new defensemen fit in. Leddy’s skills are held in high regard by the Hawks, which made it easier for them to say goodbye to the similar but more seasoned Campbell.
Leddy, who will play in the preseason opener Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers in Saskatoon, Sask., already has started to pick O’Donnell’s brain.
“He has so much experience,” Leddy said. “It helps out so much. Being on the bench with him and playing with him, say if I make a little mistake, he’ll kind of say something and help me out along the lines of more of the little things you pick up over many years in the NHL.”
O’Donnell doesn’t describe himself as a “rah-rah guy,” saying he prefers to show leadership through one-on-one interactions. He continues to feel his way around the locker room, but he has made an instant connection with Leddy.
“He’s an exciting kid to watch,” O’Donnell said. “He’s one of the guys I’ve talked to a couple times. As cuts get made and the core of the team starts to come together, maybe I’ll impose some of the stuff I’ve learned on some of those guys then.”
There hasn’t been a problem with the 20-year gap between Leddy and O’Donnell, either.
“He’s just another guy in the locker room,” Leddy said. “I like talking to him, and I like how he’s been helping me out.”