Patrick McGrath is getting a shot at playing professional hockey.
A fan favourite on Prince Edward Island during his two years spent between the Summerside Western Capitals and P.E.I. Rocket, he is playing for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, which was formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League.
“I always thought I’d get a shot somewhere,” McGrath recently told The Guardian.
“I wanted to take the next step and go professional, but I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be. It’s been going really good so far.”
The native of Shavertown, Pa., attended camp with his hometown Penguins of the American Hockey League. He played one pre-season game at home before being sent to the ECHL.
“Playing that game in Wilkes-Barre was unbelievable. Being at home is not something many people would get the opportunity to do.”
Playing in Wheeling, W. Va., is close enough where his family can see him play.
Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said McGrath made the team out of camp with his work ethic and willingness to do what it takes to help his team win.
“He’s a hardworking kid and a heart-and-soul-type guy,” he said. “His junior coaches did an extremely good job with him.”
McGrath was quick to point out his time on the Island was instrumental in his development.
“Without it I wouldn’t have been ready to go to the next level. That’s why I wanted to go there and luckily it all worked out,” he said. “I just can’t thank those guys enough.”
The Nailers are an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens.
Always willing to answer the bell as an enforcer, Donatelli sees growth potential in other areas of McGrath’s game.
“Everyone knows he’s willing to fight and do that part of it, but we’ve been working on his wall play, some of his D-zone coverage and penalty killing,” the coach said. “He stirs it up. He’s a pretty good agitator and gets under other players’ skin.”
The team only dresses 10 forwards per game, making it more important to be a well-round player.
“You try to get better in every aspect of the game,” McGrath said. “It’s really good to know those guys are willing to help you.”
Donatelli said there is a lot of room for a player like McGrath, who is willing to work hard, block shots and be tough to play against.
McGrath is now teammates again with ex-Rocket Ben Duffy, who was recently sent down from Hamilton. He scored his first professional goal Saturday night and has three points in three games with the Nailers.
u Team – Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.
u Age – 20.
u Position – Five-foot-10, 200-pound winger.
u Hometown – Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
u Local connection – Played for the Summerside Western Capitals. (MHL) and the P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL) during the past two seasons.
u This year’s stats -
GP G A Pts PIM
9 0 0 0 39