From Central Plains Capitals to the NHL, Macdonald's own Ben McCartney has come a long way.
The forward earned a spot on the Arizona Coyotes roster after impressing the coaching staff during training camp and the preseason. While McCartney is currently on the injury reserve list, he says it's still been great to get back into the action.
"When camp comes around, it's usually pretty busy. I first came into rookie camp and played in the rookie camp for four days," McCartney explains. "For the past few weeks, I've been at the training camp for the Coyotes. It's been a lot of practice and a lot of meetings, so it's been real good. Time has been flying by and I'm just happy to still be up here."
McCartney played in three preseason contests in Arizona and dished out one assist before suffering a lower-body injury. He says it was a great way to see how much his off-season training paid off.
"It's fun to see what you've been working on this summer, on and off the ice, be implemented in a game. I've gotten to play some really good players," McCartney continues. "You always want to compete at the highest level, and just having the chance to play against some of these guys that you grew up watching, it's fun."
The former Brandon Wheat King notes he already had the opportunity to play against one of the players he idolized in his younger years.
"I got to play against this guy from Dallas, (Radek) Faksa. When I was growing up, I loved how he played. It's cool to get to play these guys, but at the same time, you want their reality to be your own reality. You can't be star-struck out there. You have to go in there trying to take jobs, showing them and the people watching that you're ready to be there and ready to be one of those guys."
McCartney played in two regular season games in Arizona last season and spent the rest of the year with the team's AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners, where he put up 35 points. While he was grateful for the opportunity to play in the NHL last season, he feels like he's much more prepared for the highest level this time around.
"Whenever you play against the best, it always pushes you even harder. You always want to take a step forward, and I think I did a good job this summer trying to add some extra weight and then getting a little bit faster. I feel like it's really paying off against these older guys. I'm just trying to keep taking steps forward and trying to be one of the hardest workers out there."
The Macdonald product says his tallest task this offseason was to put on weight, while not only maintaining his speed but increasing it. McCartney found out last year that the style of game he wants to play in the NHL is extremely taxing on the body, so he knew he needed to bulk up. The 21-year-old notes he is quite satisfied with the progression he made heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
As happy as he is to be a part of the Coyotes to start the regular season, McCartney is very eager to get back on the ice.
"(Injury rehab) is always hard. It gets lonely. You're just trying to do everything you can to get back out on the ice. It's about doing all the little things, putting in the extra work, and really absorbing the information that the trainers and athletic therapists are giving you to try and make the rehab as quick as possible."
The Arizona Coyotes make their regular season debut tonight in Pittsburgh as they take on the Penguins. McCartney hopes to return to the lineup in the coming weeks.