After earning a spot on the Swift Current Broncos’ roster in his first year of major junior eligibility, Dakota Odgers chose to pass on the opportunity to play in the Western Hockey League as a 16-year-old.
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound centre decided to return to Yorkton to play another year for the Harvest, deeming a second year in Saskatchewan’s AAA midget league a better option for his long-term development.
“I wanted to play a big role as a 16-year-old,” says Odgers. “I thought I’d get a lot more ice time in Yorkton than Swift Current. I also wanted to be able to be a leader in the room. I thought I’d get that opportunity in Yorkton. In Swift Current I would have been a rookie and probably would have had a limited role.”
It is tough to say whether Odgers made the right decision for his long-term hockey career. If he would have stayed in Swift Current, he would have had less hurdles to jump over next year. But if this season with the Broncos would have ended up being a year of limited minutes and regular appearances in the press box, his confidence could have hit rock bottom, which can be detrimental to a young player’s career.
Odger’s decision to leave the Broncos for the Harvest didn’t catch Swift Current GM-head coach Mark Lamb by surprise.
“Dakota telling me he wanted to play another year of midget didn’t catch me off guard,” says Lamb. “There have been other situations in the past where players have told me they wanted to play another year of midget.”
But Lamb didn’t recommend Odgers to pass on his opportunity in Swift Current. He wanted the Broncos’ 24th overall pick of the 2011 bantam draft to stick in the Dub.
“I would have liked Dakota to stay in Swift Current,” says Lamb. “Sure he would have started playing limited minutes, but you never know how the depth chart will look at the end of the year. It is possible injuries or strong play could have got him on our top two lines and some power-play time.”
Odger’s father and current head coach of the Harvest, Jeff Odgers, discussed his development options with him on numerous occasions. He didn’t sway his son in one direction, though.
“I talked with Dakota about his options in the summer a lot,” says Jeff Odgers. “We looked at the benefits to both sides of playing in the WHL or with the Harvest. I let him make the final decision. And I think he made the right choice.”
Odger’s return to Yorkton has greatly benefited the Harvest. He has easily been one of their top players, notching eight goals and 17 points in 18 games.
“He’s been a big contributor to our team since coming back,” says Jeff Odgers. “He has not only helped us offensively, but he has also been a good defensive player for us.”
Odgers hopes he can help bring the 8-11-2-2 Harvest back into the post-season this year. This task won’t be easy, but it is definitely plausible.
“I really hope we can get back into the playoffs this year,” says Odgers. “That was actually in the back of my mind when I chose to come back here. I want the Harvest to make the playoffs and make some noise while we’re there.”
It seems quite unlikely Odgers will spend a third season with the Harvest. Both Lamb and Odgers believe he will be in Swift Current next year.
“I expect Dakota to be here next year,” says Lamb. “I think he will be a very good player for the Broncos for many years to come.”
“The plan is to be in Swift Current next year. That’s my goal,” adds Odgers.