Ryan MacKinnon would like to take the next step in his pro hockey career but realizes the importance of staying in the moment.
The 25-year-old Summerside native left Wednesday for his second camp with the New York Islanders. He attended rookie camp a year ago and made it to the main camp.
“This year, I’d love to take the next step and at least get a feel for an NHL exhibition game and then go from there,” he said.
But he’s not getting ahead of himself.
“You really have to focus on what you can control. I know it’s a cliché, but every athlete will tell you it’s so true,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in what other people are doing. . . The advice you get is to focus on your own game, focus on the stuff that got you there and (know) you’re there for a reason.”
Last season was MacKinnon’s first full year of professional hockey after three seasons playing and studying at UPEI. He played 68 regular season games with the Connecticut-based Worcester Railers of the ECHL in 2018-19, more than double the workload compared to the Atlantic University Sport schedule. MacKinnon, known for his two-way play on the ice and maturity off it, was the UPEI male athlete of the year in 2017-18 when he spent about half the game on the ice.
“It’s a rollercoaster,” MacKinnon said. “You kind of get use to the 30-game season and come February and March at UPEI you’re battling for a playoff spot, but come February and March in pro, you look at the schedule, you’re halfway through.”
He signed a one-year deal with the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the summer. Both the Tigers and the Railers are Islanders’ farm teams.
“To see they still believe in me is a nice feeling,” MacKinnon said of the vote of confidence he received from the organization.
Not overly big for a defenceman, a message from a coach in his final year of junior hockey stuck with MacKinnon.
“I thought I kind of made a name for myself in the fitness testing. I can give credit to Gordie Dwyer. He told me how important that was going to be,” he said. “It puts you on the radar automatically.”
MacKinnon skated this summer at the Pownal Sports Centre with other Island pros, plus guys getting ready for the university and major junior seasons. It brought back memories of MacKinnon’s training camp with the Charlottetown Islanders in his final season of junior.
“It’s crazy because it goes by so fast, but you remember every second of it,” he said.
This August, the players usually skated at 7:15 a.m., meaning MacKinnon and his younger brother, Carson – now entering his final junior season with the Gatineau Olympiques – would hit the road around 5 a.m. from the family’s cottage in Long River.
MacKinnon also worked on skill development this summer with Brad MacKenzie at Andrews Hockey Growth Programs. It included retrieving pucks in the corners and walking the blue-line in the offensive zone.
“As a D-man you have to get back as quick as you can and get the puck going the opposite way,” he said. “Things happen so fast, so the time and space that they have at the pro level is very limited. . . As you climb the ladder, it only gets faster and faster.”
Need to know
Who – A Summerside professional hockey player. He turns 25 today.
Height, weight, position – MacKinnon is a six-foot, 205-pound, right-shot defenceman.
Route to the pros – MacKinnon played three seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before finishing his junior career as the captain of the Charlottetown Islanders in 2014-15. He patrolled the UPEI Panthers’ blue-line for the next three seasons, turning pro after the 2017-18 university season ended.
Did you know? MacKinnon was a first team Atlantic University Sport all-star and UPEI’s male athlete of the year in 2018. He led the conference in points by a defenceman with 29. Two of his five goals that season were game-winners.
Season League GP G A Pts.
2014-15 QMJHL 64 10 40 50
2015-16 AUS 28 7 7 14
2016-17 AUS 24 0 5 5
2017-18 AUS 30 5 24 29
2017-18 AHL 3 0 1 1
2017-18 ECHL 9 2 7 9
2018-19 ECHL 68 6 20 26