Mac Weegar is a poster child for resiliency.
Now on the cusp of playing in the NHL, Weegar has gone from the forgotten one to a star in a span of a few seasons.
The 20-year defenceman in his second season with the defending Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads had a rough start to his career.
Weegar was cut from AAA teams as a 13- and 14-year-old, got passed over in two Ontario Hockey League drafts and found himself playing junior-B hockey with the Winchester Hawks of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Then things started to change for the Nepean, Ont., native.
“Winchester is kind of where it all started and playing there with coach Tom Kirkwood. Finding my confidence there is where I think it started,” said Weegar, who adding that playing with players as much as four years his senior helped.
“After about 20 games the guys were saying I have a chance to go further and they were mature 21-year-old guys and very supportive. There was a lot of motivation but there was also a couple of times when I didn’t really want to keep going on with hockey, but my mom (Louise Weegar) kept me on track telling me not to give up on myself, so I owe a lot to my mom.”
So do the Hawks, with whom he was the EOJHL rookie of the year helping the team to the championship final.
Then the junior-A Nepean Raiders and coach Peter Goulet came calling, and went on to win a Central Canada Hockey League Bogart Cup championship due in part to Weegar’s play. Again, Weegar was the rookie of the year in 2012.
“The first time he stepped on the ice with me I saw so much upside,” said Goulet.
“He’s a great kid, passionate, great teammate, phenomenal poise and moxie, if you want to call it, with the puck.”
After being ignored by the OHL, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League selected him first overall in the OHL Waiver Draft and his rights were subsequently dealt to the Mooseheads where last season he was selected to the QMJHL all-rookie team.
Last summer, in his second go around of the NHL Draft, Weegar was taken in the seventh round by the Florida Panthers.
“I obviously have to be proud of myself because I’ve come a long way but just looking back over the five years, I never thought I would end up in Halifax and winning a Memorial Cup, then get drafted to Florida,” said Weegar, who is about to open the third round of the QMJHL playoffs as the main cog on the Mooseheads’ defence.
“I’ve come a long way but I think that comes with a lot of support from your family and friends. Working out in the summer time and never quitting on yourself has a lot to do with it as well. It’s been not just myself, but a collective supporting atmosphere that has gotten me this far.”
Lack of faith from others, as odd as it sounds, has played a big part as well. Had he not been cut from some minor teams, or had a lesser team in the OHL selected him, things may have turned out different.
“I could under fallen under a bad hockey team with not as many good players that I’ve been with like Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Martin Frk, who have all been a part of this,” said Weegar.
“It was chance and opportunity and luck and it just worked out perfectly and fallen into place and it looks like I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me.”
A second-consecutive President’s Cup title with the Mooseheads and then potential Memorial Cup are some of those opportunities, and all that Weegar is focusing on right now.
As for his future beyond this season, he’s leaving that with his agent Matt Ebbs, who also happens to be his uncle. A contact with the Panthers is something that seems inevitable, and sooner rather than later, based on Weegar’s play that has seen him collect 14 points through the first two rounds of the playoffs as the Mooseheads have gone 8-1.
“There are rumours and I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Weegar said.
“(Ebbs) keeps me in the loop and hopefully the next thing he tells me is that there is going to be a contract.”
Like everything else in his hockey life, that too will come.