Southern Alberta Newspapers
In a perfect world, Dylan MacPherson will go down to Florida, make the Panthers and tear up the NHL.
In an imperfect one, returning overagers to the Medicine Hat Tigers could see him sent any number of places for his last year of major-junior hockey.
For now, the 20-year-old defenceman from Redcliff is focused on getting ready for pro camp while doing what he can to prepare the Tigers rookie class ahead of Friday’s first pre-season game in Lethbridge.
“I think I focused a lot on trying to lead by example and doing the little things right,” he said of preparing for the season. “So when the young guys are in the gym or before practice or a game, they’re staying focused because the older guys are staying focused and not really drifting away.”
MacPherson will depart his hometown late next week for Florida, where he and fellow Tigers overage defenceman Linus Nassen will try to impress Panthers brass.
“I’m pretty excited to fly out on the eighth, it’s a good opportunity to go down there, get a foot in the door and show them what I can do, maybe stay down there a little longer for main camp or even go to Springfield (AHL),” said MacPherson following a practice session at Canalta Centre Tuesday.
“I feel good, I feel 100 per cent. I feel ready for going down to Florida.”
After putting up 22 points in 67 regular season games last season, he’s part of the Tigers’leadership group. But nothing’s guaranteed if he does come back from Florida, as the team technically has six 20-year-olds on the roster. They can only keep three. Mason Shaw, David Quenneville and Nassen are all thought to have good chances of playing pro this season, while Dalton Gally and forward Ryan Jevne are in the mix too.
New assistant coach Ryan Smith might be still getting to know the roster, but MacPherson sticks out as a dependable force on the back end.
“He’s a great kid, you can see why he plays at a high level and been invited to camps at the next level,” said Smith. “He puts in the work off the ice, he’s real good on the ice, a headsy kind of guy, oversees the team on the ice and on the bench.
“He’s going to be a top guy and he knows what’s at stake for him personally.”
And if the Redcliff product does return from NHL camp, he’ll bring back valuable experience.
“I’m going to be playing with guys that have been in the league for five, 10, even more years than that,” said MacPherson. “So I’ll come back, speed’s going to be different, passes are going to be different, all around it’s going to be that much crisper.”