By Ryan McCracken on February 9, 2018.
Mason Shaw’s teammates lined the bench on Wednesday afternoon to watch the injured Medicine Hat Tigers centre take his first strides at the Canalta Centre since the early pre-season.
It was Shaw’s first skate in full hockey gear since tearing his ACL in September, but it looked as though the 19-year-old playmaker had hardly missed a beat in his five-month absence from the ice.
“It felt really good to be back out there,” said Shaw, who is now on the ice five days a week. “To be able to go on the ice and start to really make some steps toward playing again and getting back to fully healthy — which is my main concern here, getting fully healthy —it’s great, and obviously being around the guys is a big lift to my spirits.”
Shaw last saw Western Hockey League ice in Game 7 of Medicine Hat’s Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound centre posted 12 assists in the playoffs after collecting 27 goals and 67 assists in the regular season.
Two months later, Shaw was drafted to the Minnesota Wild in the fourth round at 97th overall — but it was during his first trip to NHL training camp that Shaw suffered the torn ACL. Competing against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, Shaw took an awkward hit and was forced off the ice indefinitely.
He was held off skates until late January when doctors in Minnesota cleared him to return to the ice at a leisurely pace. In the few weeks since, Shaw has increased his speed and now added equipment, puck movement and shooting to his routine — but there are still some areas of his game that are held back by his recovering knee.
“One area where I notice it the most is my acceleration,” he said. “I think getting around the ice at 80 per cent is pretty easy and I’m able to do that but my first couple steps and breakaway speed is the area where I really notice it the most, I need to work on it.”
Shaw is now officially back with the team full-time after spending the majority of the past few months at home in Wainwright or in Minnesota with the Wild, and that alone is enough to keep the team upbeat with six key players missing from their active roster.
“Just his presence in the room. I mean, it’s Shawzy,” said Tigers defenceman David Quenneville. “He’s a legend in this city for a reason and he’s my best friend for a reason. It makes me smile knowing he’s back very soon É It’s so incredible to see him back skating. It’s been a hard journey for him but he’s so mentally strong.”
While Shaw says he’s still taking his indefinite timetable week by week, he will return to Minnesota for re-evaluation in early March and says he’s hoping to be cleared for contact.
“The main focus is getting to 100 per cent. I don’t want to be doing this again next winter,” said Shaw. “As for when I’ll be able to get cleared to play, that’s up to Minnesota’s discretion. I’ll be going back down there sometime in March and hopefully that’s a timetable where I’ll be able to play again this year.”
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