POWNAL, P.E.I. – Zack MacEwen is not complacent.
The 22-year-old Stratford native is gearing for his second pro hockey season after earning the Utica Comets most improved rookie in 2017-18 and getting into two pre-season NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks.
“I didn't really know what to expect going into the year,” MacEwen explained Thursday. “As it went on, we had a lot of guys injured and we had a lot of guys getting called up (to the NHL), so I ended up getting kind of a bigger role than I would have thought in my first year.”
He finished the season with 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points in 66 games. It included 12 power-play points.
Now he has his sights set on taking the next step.
“The goal is to make the NHL,” he said. “Hopefully I get a shot this year, but my goal is to keep working to make the NHL. I’m not happy just staying in the AHL. I’m like everybody, I want to move on, move up.”
MacEwen’s journey to North America’s second-best hockey league is not the norm.
He went from minor midget to major midget, junior A to major junior.
A trade from Moncton to Gatineau, Que., for his final junior season provided him with an opportunity to blossom.
The power forward took advantage of it and had a breakout season with the Olympiques in 2016-17, amassing 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points in 66 games. He signed a three-year deal with Vancouver in March 2017.
He wasn't drafted into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or the NHL.
He said the steady improvement in his game the past two seasons comes from soaking in as much as he can from his coaches and working hard each day to get better.
“That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I am going to continue to do,” he said. “It’s helped me so far and I’m not going to lose that mindset.”
MacEwen is training this summer with Olympic gold medallist Dave (Eli) MacEachern and skates a couple of times a week. Thursday he was on the ice in Pownal with pros and members of the UPEI Panthers.
He leaves Sept. 4 for Kelowna, B.C. He will drive to Penticton for a rookie tournament against the Winnipeg Jets rookies, UBC Thunderbirds and the defending U Sports champion Alberta Golden Bears. Main camp begins on Sept. 13.
MacEwen said he is feeling no pressure heading into the camp.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m ready to get back at it and show kind of how I’ve done in the summer. . .
“I’m excited to get back and get going again.”
Need to know
Who – A Stratford native playing professional hockey in the Vancouver Canucks system.
Age – 22.
Size, position – Six-foot-four, 218-pound forward.
Season League GP G A Pts. PIM
2017-18 AHL 66 10 23 33 56
2016-17 QMJHL 66 31 43 74 90
2015-16 QMJHL 66 10 30 40 56
2014-15 QMJHL 9 1 1 2 6
2014-15 MHL 46 29 23 52 103
MacEwen said: “It was a good year, it was a fun year. We had a great group of guys on the team too, so for my first-year pro, I couldn't be happier with how it went.”